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    Go global with the new eBird taxonomy

    In June of 2010 we made eBird data entry available around the world. This enabled traveling ABA area birders to keep all their bird lists under one roof at eBird. But implementing a single field taxonomy for all birds around the world has proven challenging. I call it a 'field taxonomy' because eBird moves beyond the simple listing of species and subspecies, to allow birders to record what they see in the field: species, subspecies, hybrids, sps., and slash combos (e.g., Clark's/Western Grebe). Our goal is to empower birders to keep complete checklists of birds without forcing them to make positive identifications when conditions are challenging. Even the best of us encounters birds we can't identify. Large flocks of distant gulls or blackbirds are good examples. But these are important to record from a ecological perspective, and eBird has built tools that let birders do just that. You are free to download our taxonomy too!

    With our most recent taxonomic update in late January, birders will find more of these options available for data entry here in the United States, but also around the world. We've spent a lot of time incorporating suggestions from traveling birders, and while we've taken a significant step forward, our birder's taxonomy is still a work in progress. Please email us if you are traveling and find the available data entry options lacking. We'll be happy to incorporate your suggestions into our next taxonomic revision.

    North American birders will now enjoy a few new 'lifers' with the split of the global taxon "Winter Wren" into three species, two in North America: Pacific Wren and Winter Wren. The map below shows the winter distribution of both species based on eBird data. The Pacific Wren is found primarily in the montane West (especially the NW), while the Winter Wren favors dense tangles and rank vegetation across the Southeast.

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    The eBird taxonomy options for the Winter Wren complex now include:

    •    Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes – Old World
    •    Pacific Wren Troglodytes pacificus – Western US and Canada
    •    Pacific Wren (Alaskan islands) Troglodytes pacificus [alascensis Group]
    •    Pacific Wren (Western) Troglodytes pacificus [pacificus Group]
    •    Winter Wren    Troglodytes hiemalis – Eastern US
    •    Pacific/Winter Wren    Troglodytes pacificus/hiemalis

     In addition to the wrens, most birders will now have two Whip-poor-will's on their life lists: the Eastern Whip-poor-will occurring across much of the eastern US (see map); and the Mexican Whip-poor-will of the Southwest (see map).

    As we move forward, we look forward to bring the eBird taxonomy into alignment with the most authoritative research conducted on birds around the world. Your input is always welcome!

     

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    Brian Sullivan

    Brian Sullivan

    Brian L. Sullivan conducts fieldwork on birds throughout North America and beyond. He is Project Leader for eBird and the Avian Knowledge Network and Photographic Editor for Birds of North America Online. Sullivan has written and consulted on various publications on North American birds. Among his numerous articles are several that have appeared recently in Birding magazine—on such topics as molt in migrating raptors, Harlan's and Krider's hawks, thrush identification, birding in hurricanes, and of course eBird. Sullivan lives in central coastal California, and birds everywhere.
    • Morgan Churchill

      I am not sure how much this reflects a truely “world” taxonomy though.

      To use your winter wren example, you recognize two “groups” within the Pacific Wren, however no groups at all are recognized within the Eurasian Wren, which is more likely to get broken up into smaller units (Eastern, Nepal, etc)

    • http://profile.typepad.com/bls42 Brian Sullivan

      Morgan

      This taxonomy is definitely a work in progress, and while most of North America is fully fleshed out with field identifiable groups and subspecies, the rest of the world has a long way to go. We welcome suggestions on any and all groups that need to be added (or lumped). Marshall Iliff takes the lead on organizing these comments for incorporation into the next revision. Feel free to send him updates at miliff@aol.com.

      Thanks

      Brian

    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
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