aba events
Nikon Monarch 7

    More 2012 AOU Checklist Changes

    House_Finch_Magnus_ManskeI know what you're thinking. "More checklist changes–what have they done now?!" On the species level, there have been no more changes affecting the ABA Area than were covered in the September 2012 issue (pp. 30–33) of Birding. But there were a number of higher-level taxonomic changes and scientific name changes that were not covered or only briefly mentioned.

    Perhaps the most boring of these is the change in scientific name of Purple Gallinule from Porphyrio martinica to Porphyrio martinicus. This has to do with whether the specific epithet, martinic(us/a), is considered to be an adjective or a noun, because the former must agree in gender with the genus, while the latter need not. See, I told you it was pretty boring. I promise it gets more interesting.

    Our three "red finches" (i.e., House Finch, Purple Finch, and Cassin's Finch) were transferred out of the genus Carpodacus and into a new genus all their own: Haemorhous. Genetic data have shown that these three species are not that closely related to Carpodacus, which is represented in the ABA Area by the vagrant Common Rosefinch. In fact, the Carpodacus rosefinches seem to be more closely related to the incredibly diverse Hawaiian Honeycreepers than they are to other members of the finch family!

    450px-Sumac_Berries_at_Volo_Bog_M. ReadeyHow exactly does one pronounce Haemorhous? Well, there's no 100% correct way, of course, but the word's origin can give us some clues. Haemo- comes from the same Greek word (meaning "blood") as hemophilia and hemoglobin. So "HEE-moh" is probably a good bet. As for -rhous, I've seen two different explanations. One is that orrhos (meaning "rump") is the root. Indeed, "blood rump" seems a good description of these birds. The adult males of all species have reddish rumps. The other explanation is that rhous means "sumac", a plant which has reddish berries. In that case, the meaning would be "red (like) sumac". So, I'm not sure if "HEE-moh-roos" or "HEE-mohr-os" is the better call. But in the end, you can really pronounce it however you want!

    Sage Sparrow also got a genus change, from Amphispiza to Artemesiospiza. Genetic data show it to be quite distinct from all the other sparrows. Artemesia is the plant genus that includes sagebrush (and wormwood, whence absinthe is made). Spiza means finch. So the new genus means "sagebrush finch"–very appropriate! The most likely pronunciation is "ahr-tuh-MEEZ-ee-uh-SPY-zuh". This is a monotypic genus, meaning that it only has one member. At least, until (and if) Sage Sparrow is split.

    Some Selasphorus hummingbirds seem to me more closely related to Calliope Hummingbird than they are to other Selasphorus. That makes Selasphorus what is called a paraphyletic taxon–something that taxonomists don't really like. In order to correct this, Calliope Hummingbird was moved into Selasphorus, making the species' former (and monotypic) genus, Stellula, now defunct.

    CWWICarolina Wren was once thought to be related to a large and diverse group of tropical wrens, and they were placed in the genus Thryothorus along with it. But genetic data show that's not likely the case. In fact, none of the other wrens seems to be closely reated to it, so all those other species classified in the same genus had to be moved. In the end, they moved into three different genera, one of which, Thryophilus, is the new home of the Sinaloa Wren.

    Our goatsuckers were long placed in the genus Caprimulgus because of their similarity to the "original" European Nightjar. Once again, genetic data show that similiraity to be only skin deep: our American nightjars are only distantly related. In fact, our nighthawks seem to be more closely related to European Nightjar than they are to our American nightjars. The result is that Chuck-will's-widow, Buff-collared Nightjar, and both whip-poor-wills all move to the genus Antrostomus. Antrum means "cave", and stoma means "mouth". They do indeed have gaping, cave-like mouths!


    House Finch photo by Magnus Manske.

    Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) photo by M. Readey.

    Chuck-will's-widow painting by John James Audubon. 

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Michael Retter
    Michael L. P. Retter is the editor of the ABA's newest magazine, Birder's Guide. He also wears his ABA cap while working as a Technical Reviewer for Birding magazine. When not at home, Michael is often leading tours for Tropical Birding in the Americas or Australasia. He runs GBNA, the continent's email listserv for GLBT birders. Michael currently lives with his partner, Matt, in West Lafayette, Indiana. In his fleeting free time there, he pursues interests in horticulture (especially orchids), music, cooking, and numismatics.
    Michael Retter

    Latest posts by Michael Retter (see all)

    • http://profile.typepad.com/6p016304a55278970d George Armistead

      I’d always thought they would use the subgenus name Burrica as the new genus name for the red finches. I wonder why they opted for Haemorhous rather than Burrica.

    • Ted Floyd

      I’m guessing it’s a “simple” (hmm…) matter of priority. You can sort it all out for yourself here:


      And here:


      In a nutshell, it would appear that Swainson described Haemorhous in 1837, prior to Ridgway’s description of Burrica in 1887.

    • http://www.whiteazalea.com white azalea

      Like your post, thanks very much! I am enjoying reading!
      white azalea

    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.
    If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
    Read More »

    Recent Comments

    • Ted Floyd, in Remembering Matthiessen... { You got it! }
    • Ted Floyd, in March/April 2014 Featured Photo... { Here's more video of the Anna'x x Magnificent hybrid, with Birding magazine and the ABA in the credits (at the end, of course): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOlX2zRG73g&feature=youtu.be }
    • Frank Izaguirre, in Remembering Matthiessen... { "One imagines with a sense of foreboding this strange, solitary bird passing astern, its dark, sharp wing rising and vanishing like a fin as it... }
    • Gregg Gorton, in Your turn: Birding Urban Arizona... { Echo Canyon on the West side of Camelback Mountain (near the head of the camel) has great Prairie Falcon-watching, and I assume, nesting activity: just... }
    • Joe Morlan, in #ABArare - Marsh Sandpiper - California... { Marsh Sandpiper is still being seen. More details and photos at... http://fog.ccsf.edu/~jmorlan/MarshSandpiperP1160097s.htm }
    • Older »




    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    • From Coffee to Penguins: Winter Research 2014 April 2, 2014 6:04
      This post is the beginning of a series meant to highlight new discoveries about birds and make ornithological research more accessible to young birders. […]
    • March Blog Birding April 2, 2014 4:06
      This cold winter seems to be finally releasing its iron grasp on much of the northern US and Canada, and is giving way to thoughts of warmer weather and the arrival of the first spring migrants. With these first migrants have come some great blog posts from the young birding community. Lucas Bobay from Birding With […]
    • Merlin: an iPhone Bird Identification App For Beginners March 27, 2014 4:51
      Merlin, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s new bird identification application, is a seamless, quick way for beginners to identify birds on-the-go. Taking into account the bird’s color and size, habitat, and time of year, the application provides accurate possibilities of the bird you found. The location uses the eBird citizen-science database to compile a lis […]

    Follow ABA on Twitter

    Nature Blog Network