Taxonomic and nomenclatural changes in the AOU 48th supplement

2007 July 27
by David J. Ringer

GREENE CO., MO. — The 48th supplement to the AOU‘s checklist has been published. You can download the PDF from the AOU‘s site. A summary of taxonomic and nomenclatural changes follows:

  1. The committee reversed its 1998 decision and moved Cathartidae (New World vultures) out of Ciconiiformes (storks, etc.) back into Falconiformes (hawks and falcons). It appears that evidence for the stork-vulture link was not as strong as the committee originally believed.
  2. The Palearctic Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) is split into two species: Taiga Bean-Goose (Anser fabalis) and Tundra Bean-Goose (Anser serrirostris). Apparently, the both species have been recorded in North America, though the committee acknowledges that identifying previous records may be problematic.
  3. Cuban Black-Hawk (Buteogallus gundlachii), is given full species status. It was previously considered conspecific with the Common Black-Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus).
  4. Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle is moved out of the monotypic genus Spizastur into Spizaetus, where it is placed immediately after Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus).
  5. Yellow-legged Gull (Larus cachinnans) is split into Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis) and Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans). “Birds in our area were identified (Wilds and Czaplak 1994) as belonging to the michahellis group, which retains the English name Yellow-legged Gull,” writes the committee.
  6. The kingfisher genus Ceryle is re-split into genera Ceryle and Megaceryle. North American species affected are the Belted and Ringed kingfishers, which are both placed in Megaceryle.

So no real surprises here. Any thoughts?

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4 Responses
  1. July 27, 2007

    I find it interesting that the AOU decided to move New World Vultures back into Falconiformes. The relationship to storks always seemed somewhat counterintuitive to me. I wonder where the vultures will finally end up.

  2. djringer permalink*
    July 27, 2007

    John, the supplement indicates that the placement within Falconiformes is not at all certain. It seems that no one has really figured out where the New World vultures belong. Some authors place them in their own order, as they do not seem closely related to any other group. See, for example, this proposal to the SACC.

  3. August 1, 2007

    I am surprised about the decision to split the Bean Goose. Even though many aspects point towards this split, it is still hotly debated in Europe and as far as I know, it has not been split there yet with the evidence deemed not sufficient – yet. We get both forms (although other subspecies within the Taiga/Tundra-complex) on the Baltic Sea Coast of Germany in good numbers and strangely, it seems there’s the distinct Tundra, the very distinct Taiga but also a form that clearly belongs to Taiga but is less different from Tundra. Could this point to a clinal change?
    We don’t know!
    But most birders in Germany now differentiate between both forms, and that’s a good thing in general, independently of taxonomic status.

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  1. The 48th Supplement to the AOU’s Checklist

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