Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Reshuffling Birds

For those of you who are bird watchers, and those of you who research birds, you will be interested to know that the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) just published its 47th Supplement to their Check List of North American Birds — its 6th Supplement since the seventh edition was first published in 1998. This Supplement is published after new data — mostly DNA data — becomes available to the AOU.

(below the fold)

According to this paper [free PDF], nine main changes are noted in this Supplement;

  1. three species were added because AOU split them from species that already appear on the list (Calonectris edwardsii, Dendragapus fuliginosus and Loxigilla barbadensis)
  2. one species was added because AOU was presented with new information regarding distribution (Fregetta tropica)
  3. two species replace others that are currently on the list because extralimital forms were split (Cuculus optatus and Ficedula albicilla)
  4. one species name was changed (Streptopelia risoria) because it is now known to be feral S. roseogrisea
  5. one family was subsumed into another (Dendrocolaptidae into Furnariidae), but resulted in no nomenclatural changes
  6. one subfamily was elevated to the status of family (Stercorariidae), but resulted in no nomenclatural changes
  7. one genus (Asturina) was merged with another (Buteo), resulting in one nomenclatural change (B. nitidus)
  8. one species (sissonii) was transferred from one genus (Thryomanes) to another (Troglodytes), resulting in one nomenclatural change
  9. two more species (Myiozetetes similis and Catharus mexicanus) are added to the list of species known to occur in the USA (in addition to those noted in points 1 & 2)

Additionally, plenty of other changes were made, including: several genera of shorebirds were moved into Tringa, with a resulting shuffling in the order of the shorebird listings; the Jaegers and Skuas were moved out of Laridae and into their own family, which now appears just before Alcidae on the checklist; there was plenty of shifting of species and renaming of genera within the Terns (basically, Sterna was split up into many older generic designations); and last, the cuckoo subfamily Coccyzinae was merged with Cuculinae, one old generic name (Coccycua) was resurrected, and two genera (Saurothera and Hyetornis) were merged into one genus, Coccyzus, resulting in new names for those seven species.

These are not the last taxonomic rearrangements that will occur. The report notes that “changes of classification of entire genera, tribes, subfamilies, and even families will become more frequent as DNA evidence continues to provide new [data] or confirm old concepts of relationships.”

My bird pals in Washington State are especially interested in the blue grouse-complex (Dendragapus fuliginosus) RE-split. The paper [free PDF] that was instrumental in that split was recently published by my colleagues. That paper includes a nice range map that shows the zone of sympatry runs along the Okanagan River Valley in the center of Northern Washington state and extends up through British Columbia, Canada, where my colleagues noted some gene flow from the eastern “dusky” to the western “sooty” grouse, based on the movement of females between the two populations each generation.


Included with the best science, nature and medical essays
by the Tangled Bank, issue 58.

Included in I and the Bird, issue 28.


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