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ABA Checklist Changes

One of the highlights of the year for many birders is the arrival of the July issue of The Auk, the journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union. The July Auk is “the checklist issue,” presenting a detailed accounting of all the latest “splits” (yay!), “lumps” (boo…), and revisions to linear sequence (aaargh).

The AOU Checklist Committee has wrapped up its 2011 deliberations well ahead of schedule, with the result that checklist changes will appear in the forthcoming April issue of The Auk. The ABA has obtained an advance copy of the April Auk, and we thought it would be nice to provide a brief overview of the checklist changes reported therein. Of course, you should read the full report; see the link at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, here’s a basic summary:

01 Type II Crossbill 1. Splits. The biggies involve the Dark-eyed Junco and Red Crossbill species complexes. Oregon Junco and Slate-colored Junco are restored to full-species status, and, in something of a surprise, Cassiar Junco is elevated to full-species status. White-winged, Pink-sided, and Gray-headed Juncos will still be known as Dark-eyed Junco. Now for the crossbills… Although the “South Hills” Crossbill of Idaho remains a subspecies of the Red Crossbill, various other populations have been split into full species. These are the “types” until recently known as “Type II,” “Type IV,” and “Type VIII” Red Crossbills. The word “ Red” will be deleted from their names. So the crossbill species in North America will now be known as Red Crossbill, Type II Crossbill, Type IV Crossbill, Type VIII Crossbill, and—you would think—White-winged Crossbill. But keep reading… (Above: Type II Crossbill. Photo by © Bill Schmoker.)

2. Lumps. We’re not done with crossbills and juncos. The Hispaniolan and White-winged crossbills have been lumped—relumped, actually. Although this action does not result in a change in the number of species on the ABA Checklist, it does necessitate a name-change. By rules of nomenclatorial priority, the relumped taxon will be known as Hispaniolan Crossbill—an odd name for all those crossbills in Labrador and Minnesota. Well, the rules are the rules. As to the juncos, the dorsalis subspecies—sometimes called “Red-backed” Junco—of the Dark-eyed Junco has been reassigned to Yellow-eyed Junco, a return, actually, to a much older taxonomy. As with the relumping of the crossbills, the reassignment of dorsalis to Yellow-eyed Junco does not affect the number of species on the ABA Checklist.
02 American Variable Blue Bunting      But a few of the new lumps do have consequences for our lifelists, and they are painful. The Spotted and Eastern towhees have been relumped, and together they’ll be known as the Rufous-sided Towhee, a name familiar to many longtime birders. Sadly, the Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles have been relumped, and they’ll go back to that despised moniker from the late 20th century: Northern Oriole. Also, the Lazuli and Indigo buntings have been lumped. Genetic evidence shows that the “American Variable Blue Bunting,” as the bird is to be known, is just a single species. A proposal to lump the Black-headed and Rose-breasted grosbeaks failed, but narrowly so; the committee anticipates acceptance of this proposal in 2012. (Above: American Variable Blue Bunting. Photo by © Bill Schmoker.)

03 Iceland 3. Checklist Regions. First off, Hawaii. The Aloha State will not be admitted to the “North American” checklist area. In arriving at this decision, an independent ad hoc “Lifelist Verification Committee” (LVC) cited the “imperative of tradition” and its “commitment to the virtues of conformity and conservatism.” The Komandorski Islands, however, will be admitted to the checklist area. “Basically, they’re just an extension of the Aleutian Islands,” notes LVC committee member Onde Dyolf. “It’s analogous to Saint-Pierre-et-Michelon,” Dyolf explains. In other news, the committee affirmed its support for including Greenland within the checklist area. But there’s a strange twist: The island Kingdom of Iceland will be coming along for the ride. “Greenland is huge,” writes committee member April Zimbello in a separate commentary, “and Iceland is part of the package.” Zimbello adds, “Besides, the Western Palearctic birding community doesn’t want Iceland. Somebody has to take them.” The main consequence of this action, from the lister’s point of view, is that Meadow Pipit is now a very easy “tick” for the “North American” checklist. (Above: Can you say “Meadow Pipit”? Iceland and Greenland have been added to the ABA Area.)

There you have it. And those are just the highlights. The report also lumps the Golden-crowned and White-crowned sparrows; splits the Willow Flycatcher into two species (but, intriguingly, reassigns nominate traillii to Alder Flycatcher); adds 17 (!) species of exotic psittacids (parrots, parakeets, and macaws) to the list of “countable” birds in Florida and California; rejects a proposal to admit Bermuda and the Azores to the checklist area; and announces the formation of a new committee to study the idea of restoring lifelist thresholds for attainment of associate membership status in the ABA.

See for yourself. It’s all in the April 2011 Checklist Report.

Have a great day!

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Ted Floyd

Ted Floyd

Editor, Birding magazine at American Birding Association
Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
Ted Floyd

Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

  • Terry Bronson

    Regardless of the fact that this is April Fool’s Day, I expect the Editor of “Birding” to act in a serious and responsible manner. This was not an appropriate posting.

  • Awesome!!! I love April Fool’s Day – I was getting all bent out of shape and wondered is this a joke or is he serious!

  • Dick Latuchie

    Very well done!! I had already copied the article to send to a friend when I clicked on the link. The crossbills were giving me heartburn, just thinking of it! I hope Terry takes a look at Google today.

  • Paul Clapham

    Iceland? That’s a bit much, isn’t it? Geologically speaking, only the part of Iceland west of Thingvellir should be considered part of North America.

  • Good catch, Paul! You’re absolutely right. I just checked the report, and it says exactly that: Iceland west of [T]hingvellir, including the Reykjanes peninsula. But even with that restriction, Meadow Pipit’s still lookin’ good! Details at:

    http://tinyurl.com/4pt2fpo

  • Good one!

  • Morgan Churchill

    I am surprised you forgot to mention the 6 way split of Lesser Black-backed Gull…that was certainly a shocker.

  • Hahahaha, nice one Ted! I made it halfway down before I remembered what day it was… gah! lol

  • Ray Hodson

    I understood that the Red Junglefowl was being renamed as the “Hawaiian Chicken”

  • Ted, you got me on this one. What great fun! I loved that the independent ad hoc “Lifelist Verification Committee” (LVC) cited the “imperative of tradition” and its “commitment to the virtues of conformity and conservatism.” Sign me up!

  • Mab

    Ted, that charismatic wit in your writing makes me smile! Always enjoy reading about your local birding exploits with that touch of Floydian humor and this one…well, enough said. Keep it up!

  • Alex Watson

    Just got my Bird of the Year stickers. Perhaps I was pondering where to stick them to hard ‘cus I totally bought this article. Well done!

  • I have to say that this year’s online birding pranks have been pretty awesome. Excellent work…the only thing missing was a Rick Roll.

    So appropriate, love it and much needed in the birding community.

  • That was great – I got all excited about the juncos, then read the part about the crossbills, a little voice in my head said “wait a second” and then it clicked!

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Recent Comments

  • David Rankin, in ICYMI: Sympathy for the Twitcher... { Ted, I'm a fanatical lister and a sometimes twitcher, and I'll echo Greg's sentiment, because I enjoy it. However, I've sometimes found myself in situations... }
  • Jamie Oliver instagram, in Chandler Seymour Robbins, 1918–2017... { Oh for sure, I would have gone on to become a birder and ornithologist. That’s not what I mean. What I mean is this: What... }
  • Rare Bird Alert: May 26, 2017 « ABA Blog { […] ABA’s 7th record of Common Swift (5) was present for several days near St. John’s, Newfoundland, which was particularly […] }
  • Ted Floyd, in Birding Photo Quiz: April 2017... { Here is the full text of Tom Johnson's analysis of the Featured Photo: http://birdingmagazine.aba.org/i/815406-apr-2017/78 (ABA member account required for complete access.) }
  • Ted Floyd, in ICYMI: Sympathy for the Twitcher... { Hey, folks. Just a random thought. It is possible to be a fanatical lister while also being averse to chasing. I'm just saying. }
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