Like many birders, I am fascinated with the many advances made by the scientific community, and advances in bird taxonomy are no different. Since the American Ornithological Society released the 59th supplement to the AOS Check-list on Thursday, I might as well cover some of the most notable changes as they effect North and Middle America.
White-collared Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola, sensu lato) has been split into two species: Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola, sensu stricto) and Morelet’s Seedeater (Sporophila morelleti). The latter is now the only species of tanager which regularly breeds in the continental United States. It reaches the northern end of its range along the Rio Grande in southern Texas; from there, its range extends south along the Gulf and Caribbean coasts to the southern end of its range in western Panama. It is also found on the Pacific slope from there north to Oaxaca. The former is endemic to the Pacific slope and interior of Mexico, from Oaxaca north to southern Sonora and disjunctly in southern Baja California Sur. There is at least one unaccepted record of Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater from the ABA Area, in San Diego, California, on 30 August 2015. As a pretty bird which happily eats seeds and produces a beautiful song, it’s a “good” caged bird, so a conservative approach is probably warranted. I only have Morelet's Seedeater for both ABA and world, so not too exciting.
The English name of Perisoreus canadensis has changed from Gray Jay to Canada Jay. This reverses a committee action from 1957 and is also a nod toward the possible adoption of the species as the official bird of Canada. The committee went against precedent with this decision: its often-voiced opinion that, unless there’s a species-level change, it’s not wise to tinker with long-established English names, didn’t win out this time (a similar proposal was made last year to change the English name of Aythya collaris from Ring-necked Duck to Ring-billed, but that did not pass). While changing the name from Gray to Canada is appropriate to keep with the English names of other Perisoreus jays (Siberian for P. infaustus and Sichuan for P. internigrans) and I approve of it, this might take a while for me to get used to so don't send me bck to the car if I slip up and say "Gray" instead of "Canada," I'm still adjusting.
Ammodramus was split to form Centronyx and Ammospiza, leaving Grasshopper as the only North American member of this genus, with an additional two in South America
The woodpecker genus Picoides has been split. North American species are now in Picoides, Dryobates, and Dendrocopos. Black-backed and American Three-toed will stay in Picoides, Great Spotted will be moved to Dendrocopos, and the rest will be moved to Dryobates
The Old World chat genus Luscinia has been split. ABA Area species are now in Larvivora, Cyanecula, and Calliope. I currently have none of these for ABA and probably won't unless I go to western Alaska
Gray Nightjar has been split. The scientific name of the species which has been found in the ABA Area changes from Caprimulgus indicus to Caprimulgus jotaka.
Asian bush-warblers were transferred from Cettia to Horornis. In North America, the only member of this genus is the Japanese Bush-Warbler, an introduced species in Hawaii
Just a few weeks ago, the birding world was shocked again when less than 24 hours after birders at Tadoussac Bird Observtory in Quebec had a record-breaking high count of 700,000+ warblers, Brian Patterson and Kate Sutherland reported a Tahiti Petrel on a Seabirding trip out of North Carolina. This was not only a first record for the state, but also a first for the Continental ABA Area and the Atlantic Ocean as a whole.
This was a species that, while common in captivity, has had a few valid records in the ABA Area in the past few years, most notably one last year in New Hampshire. Interestingly, prior to this supplement, the closely related Ruddy Shelduck was on the AOS Check-list but not the ABA Checklist
Storm-petrels in Fregetta, Oceanites, and Pelagodroma were elevated to a new family: Oceanitidae. Since my only ABA Storm-Petrel at the time of this writing is Wilson's, I have no members of the original family on my ABA list. I have Wedge-rumped and possibly Band-rumped from the Galapagos in my pre-birding years, which I will have to review my records for when I get the chance.
The subspecies of Buff-throated Foliage Gleaner found on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica gained full species status: Autolomus exsertus
Tyrannoidea has been replaced with Tyranni, which includes Cotingidae, Tityridae, Pipridae, Oxyruncidae, and Tyrannidae. Sequences in Tyrannidae have also been changed as well.
Coopman's Elaenia has been split from Lesser Elaenia as well as Chivi from Red-eyed, Olive from Tufted, Black-backed Water-Tyrant from Pied, and Hermit Wood-Wren from Gray-breasted.
Passerini's and Cherrie's Tanagers were lumped to form Scarlet-rumped Tanager
This was not a species change, but rather a subspecies change: Chiriqui Yellowthroat was found to be closer related to Masked Yellowthroat than to Olive-crowned Yellowthroat
Unfortunately, a lot of exciting proposals from a North American perspective were rejected this year, including those to lump Taiga and Tundra Bean-Geese, split Mexican Duck, change of the English name of Rock Pigeon back to Rock Dove, separation of Fork-tailed Swift into four species, change of the English names of Common Gallinule and Common Moorhen, recognition of the genus Catharacta, split Scopoli's Shearwater from Cory’s, split Boyd's Shearwater from Audubon’s, split Barn Owl into three species, elevate Platyrinchinae and Rhynchocyclinae to family level, rearrange the linear sequence of tyrant flycatcchers, change of the treatment of Piprites by creating the new family Pipritidae, transfer of Lesser Whitethroat from Sylvia to Curruca, separation of Toxostoma arenicola from LeConte’s Thrasher, separation of Melozone occipitalis from White-eared Ground-Sparrow, and split Yellow Warbler into two species.
I don't usually like to bring my opinions into scientific discussions, but t
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