AOU 50th supplement: taxonomic and nomenclatural changes
The Fiftieth Supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union Check-list of North American Birds (Chesser et al.) was published in the July 2009 issue of The Auk. It is available online to subscribers at the link above and will presumably be posted on the AOU’s checklist page sometime in the next few weeks. (Update: It’s here.)
Here, I summarize the taxonomic and nomenclatural changes that affect the main list (i.e., not the appendix or additions to the list). The proposals and commentary leading up to the publication of the supplement are available on the 2008 proposals page. I’ve referenced the proposal numbers below.
Numididae given family rank; galliform families resequenced. The committee follows the latest research in recognizing Numididae (guineafowl, an African family) as a full family, rather than a subfamily of Phasianidae. Families in the order Galliformes are rearranged as follows: Cracidae, Numididae, Odontophoridae, Phasianidae. (Proposal 2008-B-6)
Linear sequence of Trogon species rearranged. The new sequence of species in the genus Trogon is as follows: clathratus, massena, melanurus, melanocephalus, citreolus, viridis, bairdii, violaceus, rufus, elegans, mexicanus, collaris, aurantiiventris. (Proposal 2008-A-10)
Guianan Puffbird split from White-necked Puffbird. Notharchus macrorhynchos is split into two species. N. macrorhynchos is now Guianan Puffbird of the Guianas and northern Brazil, and N. hyperrhynchus, White-necked Puffbird, is widely distributed in Latin America. (Proposal 2008-B-14)
Montane Woodcreeper split from Spot-crowned Woodcreeper. Spot-crowned Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes affinis) is now confined to Middle America as South American populations are elevated to species status as Montane Woodcreeper, L. lacrymiger. The committee notes that there is no strong published evidence for this split but that there hadn’t been any rationale for the decades-old lump that united them in the first place. The SACC list already treated them as separate species. (Proposal 2008-A-5)
English name of Vireo caribaeus changed from St. Andrew Vireo to San Andres Vireo. (Proposal 2008-C-1)
Poecile hudsonica becomes P. hudsonicus; P. cincta becomes P. cinctus. The chickadee genus Poecile is determined to be masculine, so the species name of Boreal Chickadee must change from hudsonica to hudsonicus to agree in gender with the genus. Likewise, the species name of Gray-headed Chickadee changes from cincta to cinctus. Hopefully this is the end of a series of flip-flops that ensued after the split of Poecile from Parus! (Proposal 2008-A-7)
Cichlherminia merged into Turdus. The distinctive Forest Thrush (photo), endemic to four Caribbean islands, was formerly placed in the monotypic genus Cichlherminia. It is embedded in Turdus, however, and so becomes Turdus lherminieri. Despite the merger, the committee points out that the species does represent a distinctive lineage. If Turdus is ever split into multiple genera, the Forest Thrush may be placed in a monotypic genus once again. (Proposal 2008-A-3)
Extinct Hawaiian genera Moho and Chaetoptila moved into new family Mohoidae. Extinct Hawaiian genera Moho and Chaetoptila had been placed in Meliphagidae (honeyeaters), but surprising new genetic work places them near the Bombycillidae (waxwings) in their own family, Mohoidae. Sadly, this newly recognized family has no living members. (2008-C-4)
Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow becomes Nelson’s Sparrow. The committee cites widespread dislike of “clunky” English names for this and the following species. Accordingly, the English name of Ammodramus nelsoni is shortened to Nelson’s Sparrow. (Proposal 2008-A-4)
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow becomes Saltmarsh Sparrow. The committee cites widespread dislike of “clunky” English names for this and the preceding species. Accordingly, the English name of Ammodramus caudacutus is shortened to Saltmarsh Sparrow, despite minor concerns that certain other sparrows are saltmarsh specialists too. (Proposal 2008-A-4)
“Tanager” genera Piranga, Habia, and Chlorothraupis moved to Cardinalidae. These three genera belong not to the tanager family (Thraupidae) but to the cardinal and grosbeak family (Cardinalidae). For US and Canadian birders, this change affects the familiar Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, and Western Tanager (all members of Piranga). This change has been expected for several years. (Proposal 2008-B-1)
Granatellus moved from Parulidae to Cardinalidae. Red-breasted Chat (Granatellus venustus) and Gray-throated Chat (G. sallaei) are moved from Parulidae (New World warblers) to Cardinalidae (cardinals and grosbeaks) based on genetic data. Granatellus may be near Pheucticus. (Proposal 2008-B-2)
Amaurospiza moved from Emberizidae to Cardinalidae. Amaurospiza is a small genus of Neotropical seedeaters. Genetic data place them in Cardinalidae. (Proposal 2008-B-3)
Saltator moved out of Cardinalidae. The relationships of this Neotropical genus to other birds is not yet entirely clear, but it does not belong in Cardinalidae. (Proposal 2008-B-4)
Redpolls moved into genus Acanthis. Redpolls were in subgenus Acanthis within genus Carduelis, but now Acanthis is (re)elevated to genus level. Thus, Common Redpoll becomes Acanthis flammea, and Hoary Redpoll becomes A. hornemanni. (Proposal 2008-A-9A)
Siskins and New World goldfinches moved into genus Spinus. Siskins and New World goldfinches were in subgenus Spinus within genus Carduelis, but now Spinus is (re)elevated to genus level (Proposal 2008-A-9B). Note that Spinus is masculine, so the endings of some species names must be changed to agree in gender. This effects the following changes to scientific names on the AOU North American checklist:
- Eurasian Siskin: Spinus spinus
- Pine Siskin: Spinus pinus
- Black-capped Siskin: Spinus atriceps
- Black-headed Siskin: Spinus notatus
- Yellow-bellied Siskin: Spinus xanthogastrus
- Red Siskin: Spinus cucullatus
- Antillean Siskin: Spinus dominicensis
- Lesser Goldfinch: Spinus psaltria
- Lawrence’s Goldfinch: Spinus lawrencei
- American Goldfinch: Spinus tristis
Oriental Greenfinch moved into genus Chloris. As part of the breakup of genus Carduelis, Oriental Greenfinch is moved into genus Chloris. Thus, its scientific name becomes Chloris sinica. Oriental Greenfinch is accidental in the AOU area. (Proposal 2008-A-9C)
Proposals to split Savannah Sparrow and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl were defeated.
I thought the most exciting thing here was the creation of the Mohoidae, though this was not unexpected in the wake of the evidence published last year. Also interesting is the re-splitting of Carduelis, though I have a feeling it’s not fully settled yet. None of the changes seemed terribly unexpected; in fact, many are already widely accepted elsewhere.
What are your thoughts?