American Birding Podcast



2018 AOS Supplement is Out!

Every summer, birders anxiously await publication of the “Check-list Supplement” by the American Ornithological Society’s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds (a.k.a. the NACC). The supplement, available here, details revisions to the NACC’s Check-list. Below is a brief rundown of those changes.You can read all the proposals on which the NACC voted this year at Later in the year, be sure to check out ABA’s annual “Check-list Redux” in Birder’s Guide to Listing & Taxonomy. There, you’ll find photos, maps, and more detailed analysis of these changes.

Species marked with asterisks (*) below are those which do not appear on the ABA Checklist. Nowadays, it can be assumed that any change in taxonomy is due (at least partly) to analysis of new genetic data, so that is not always mentioned below. As a general policy, the NACC accepts as additions to its North American Check-list any species the ABA’s Checklist Committee adds to its list. Those changes are not listed here.

This year, the topics most likely to generate discussion are splits of White-collared Seedeater and the resurrection of Canada Jay.


Goodbye, White-collared Seedeater!


Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater* (Sporophila torqueloa)*

Morelet’s Seedeater (Sporophila moreletti)


Morelet’s Seedeater by Amy McAndrews

White-collared Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola, sensu lato) has been split into two species: Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola, sensu stricto) and Morelet’s Seedeater (Sporophila morelletti). The latter is now the only species of tanager which regularly breeds in the continental United States. It reaches the northern end of its range along the Rio Grande in southern Texas; from there, its range extends south along the Gulf and Caribbean coasts to the southern end of its range in western Panama. It is also found on the Pacific slope from there north to Oaxaca. The former is

Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater by Ross Tsai

endemic to the Pacific slope and interior of Mexico, from Oaxaca north to southern Sonora and disjunctly in southern Baja California Sur.

Unaccepted ABA Area records of Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater come from Nogales, AZ; Mission, TZ; and San Diego, CA. The last location has played host to many individuals, especially near the Tijuana River mouth, with at least four detected at once. As a pretty bird which happily eats seeds and produces a beautiful song, the species is a “good” caged bird, so a conservative approach is probably warranted.

For birders who have seen both species in Mexico, this split probably seems long overdue. And, indeed, Steve N. G. Howell split the two 20 years ago in his A Bird-finding Guide to Mexico (1998).


Goodbye, Gray Jay. Hello, Canada Jay!

A Canada Jay photographed in Ontario by Drew Weber

The English name of Perisoreus canadensis has changed from Gray Jay to Canada Jay. This reverses a committee action from 1957 and is also a nod toward the possible adoption of the species as the official bird of Canada. The committee went against precedent with this decision: its often-voiced opinion that, unless there’s a species-level change, it’s not wise to tinker with long-established English names, didn’t win out this time.


Most of the the other changes which affect the ABA Area are changes to scientific names and the sequence of species on the checklist.


Split of Ammodramus

The sparrow genus Ammodramus has been split. As a result, North America now has only one species in the genus, while South America has an additional two.

Grasshopper Sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum)

Baird’s Sparrow (Ammodramus bairdii Centronyx bairdii)

Henslow’s Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowi  Centronyx henslowi)

LeConte’s Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii  Ammospiza leconteii)

Seaside Saprrow (Ammodramus maritima Ammospiza maritima)

Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni Ammospiza nelsoni)

Saltmarsh Sparrow (Ammodramus caudacuta Ammospiza caudacuta)


Split of Picoides

The woodpecker genus Picoides has been split. North American species are now as follows, in this sequence.

American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides dorsalis)

Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens Dryobates pubescens)

Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii Dryobates nuttallii)

Ladder-backed Woodpecker (Picoides scalaris Dryobates scalaris)

Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis Dryobates borealis)

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus Dryobates villosus)

White-headed Woodpecker (Picoides albolarvatus Dryobates albolarvatus)

Smoky-brown Woodpecker* (Picoides fumigatus Dryobates fumigatus)

Arizona Woodpecker (Picoides arizonae Dryobates arizonae)

Strickland’s Woodpecker* (Picoides stricklandi Dryobates stricklandi)


Siberian Blue Robin by 老毛

Split of Luscinia

The Old World chat genus Luscinia has been split. ABA Area species are now

Siberian Blue Robin (Luscinia cyane Larvivora cyane)

Rufous-tailed Robin (Luscinia sibilans Larvivora sibilans)

Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica Cyanecula svecica)

Siberian Rubythroat (Luscinia calliope Calliope calliope)


Split of Pterodroma

Pseudobulweria has been split from Pterodroma. The effect in the ABA Area is that Tahiti Petrel has had a change of genus. It is now Pseudobulweria rostrata.


Split of Cettia

Japanese Bush-Warbler by Marcel Holyoak

Japanese Bush-Warbler, established in Hawaii, has changed from Cettia diphone to Horornis diphone due to a split of Cettia.


Split of Gray Nightjar

Gray Nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus, sensu lato) has been split into three species: Gray Nightjar (Caprimulgus jotaka), Jungle Nightjar (Caprimulgus indicus, sensu stricto), and Palau Nightjar (Caprimulgus phalaena). The effect on the ABA Checklist is that the scientific name of Gray Nightjar changes. There is one record of the species from the Aleutians.


Two storm-petrel families

Hydrobatidae has been split. It is now known as the northern storm-petrel family and is preceded by the new family Oceanitidae (the southern storm-petrels). Our Oceanitidae species are, in sequence:

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel

White-faced Storm-Petrel

Black-bellied Storm-Petrel

Given that storm-petrels comprise two families and are not petrels, it is perplexing why the P is capitalized in Storm-Petrel.


New Classification for the Hawks (Accipitridae)

New subfamilies and sequence have been adopted as follows:


Pearl Kite*

White-tailed Kite


Hook-billed Kite

Gray-headed Kite*

Swallow-tailed Kite


Crested Eagle*

Harpy Eagle*

Golden Eagle

Black Hawk-Eagle*

Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle*

Ornate Hawk-Eagle*

Double-toothed Kite

Northern Harrier

Long-winged Harrier*

Western Marsh-Harrier*

Gray-bellied Hawk*

Chinese Sparrowhawk

Tiny Hawk*

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Gundlach’s Hawk*

Bicolored Hawk*

Northern Goshawk

Black Kite

Bald Eagle

White-tailed Eagle

Steller’s Sea-Eagle

Mississippi Kite

Plumbeous Kite*

Black-collared Hawk*

Crane Hawk

Snail Kite

Slender-billed Kite*

Plumbeous Hawk*

Common Black Hawk

Cuban Black Hawk*

Savanna Hawk*

Great Black Hawk*

Solitary Eagle*

Barred Hawk*

Roadside Hawk

Harris’s Hawk

White-tailed Hawk

White Hawk*

Semiplumbeous Hawk*

Gray Hawk

Gray-lined Hawk*

Red-shouldered Hawk

Ridgway’s Hawk*

Broad-winged Hawk

Hawaiian Hawk

Short-tailed Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Chivi Vireo by Dave Curtis

Red-tailed Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk


Split of Red-eyed Vireo

Chivi Vireo (Vireo chivi), formerly considered a South-American-breeding population of Red-eyed Vireo, has been elevated to species status.


Suboscine reshuffle

The becard family (Tityridae) now comes before flycatchers (Tyrannidae) in the sequence, and within the latter, subfamilies found in the ABA Area are now in the following sequence:

Elaeniinae (elaenias and tyrannulets)

Tryanninae (kingbirds, kiskadees, Myiarchus

Fluvicolinae (pewees, empids, phoebes)


=== Further changes affecting only Middle America ===


Split of Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner

Chiriquí Foliage-gleaner (Automolus exsertus), endemic to humid lowlands of the Pacific slope of Costa Rica and western Panama, has been split from the rest of the Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner complex and follows it in the checklist sequence.


Male and female “Cherrie’s” Scarlet-rumped Tanagers by Brian Ralphs

Re-lump of Scarlet-rumped Tanager

Passerini’s Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii, sensu stricto) and Cherrie’s Tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis) have been relumped as Scarlet-rumped Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii, sensu stricto).


Transfer of “Chiriquí Yellowthroat”

“Chiriquí” Olive-crowned Yellowthroat by Michael Retter

Though considered by some a distinct species, “Chiriquí Yellowthroat”, endemic to high-elevation marshes in far western Panama and far eastern Costa Rica, has been considered by NACC a subspecies of the otherwise-South-American Masked Yelowthroat (Geothyypis aequinoctialis). It is now considered a subspecies of Olive-crowned Yellowthroat: (G. semiflava chiriquensis).


Red-breasted Meadowlark in Costa Rica by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

English name change for Leistes militaris

The former Red-breasted Blackbird is now known as Red-breasted Meadowlark, conforming with usage of other South American species in the genus.


Caribbean bullfinch reshuffle

Puerto Rican Bullfinch and Greater Antillean Bullfinch now join Cuban Bullfinch in the genus Melopyrrha. They are Melopyrrha portoricensis and Melopyrrha violacea, respectively. Lesser Antillean Bullfinch and Barbados Bullfinch remain in Loxigilla. The new sequence is:

Puerot Rican Bullfinch

Cuban Bullfinch

Greater Antillean Bullfinch

Yellow-shouldered Grassquit

Lesser Antillean Bullfinch

Barbados Bullfinch

It seems like it might be time to change the English name of Yellow-shouldered Grassquit to Yellow-shouldered Bullfinch.


Genus Move for Red-rumped Woodpecker

Red-rumped Woodpecker moved out of Veniliornis and into Dryobates. It is now  Dryobates kirkii.


Genus Move for Mouse-colored Tyrannulet

Mouse-colored Tyrannulet joins Cocos Flycatcher in Nesotriccus. It changes from Phaeomyias murina to Nesotriccus murinus and occurs after Cocos Flyatcher in the sequence.


Big reshuffle of “non-ant” suboscine passerines

The sequence of families is:

Cotingidae (cotingas, including Rufous Piha)

Tityridae (tityras, becards, Schiffornis, Speckled Mourner)

Oxyruncidae (sharpbills)

Onychorhynchidae (royal-flycatchers, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, and Myiobius)

Tyrannidae (other New World flycatchers, including Rufous Mourner)


Within Tyrannidae, there is a new subfamily sequence and two new subfamilies:

Pipritinae (Piprites, moves from Incertae Sedis)

Rhynchocyclinae (flatbills and tody-tyrants; includes Mionectes, Leptopogon,

Phylloscartes, Pseudotriccus, Todirostrum, Cnipodectes, Rhyncocyclus, and Tolmomyias, in that sequence).

Elaeniinae (elaenias and tyrannulets)

Tryanninae (kingbirds, kiskadees, Myiarchus)

Fluvicolinae (pewees, empids, phoebes)


Subfamily Change for Cattle Tyrant

Cattle Tyrant moves from Fulvicolinae to Tyranninae and now follows Great Kiskadee in the sequence.


Hill Myna split and removed from Check-list

Hill Myna has been split into Common Hill-Myna (Gracula religiosa) and Southern Hill-Myna (Gracula indica). The former was on the Check-list because it was thought to be established in Puerto Rico. That seems to no longer be the case. There is also a dwindling population in Florida. Common Hill-Myna is moved from the main checklist to the appendix as it’s no longer considered to be established in North America.


Splits involving extralimital species that result in no change for North America:


Split of Lesser Elaenia

Coopman’s Elaenia (Elaenia brachyptera), formerly considered a population of Lesser Elaenia, has been elevated to species status.


Split of Tufted Flycatcher

Olive Tufted Flycatcher (Mitrephanes olivaceus), formerly considered a population of Tufted Flycatcher, has been elevated to species status.


Split of Pied Water-Tyrant

Black-backed Water-tyrant (Fluvicola albiventer), formerly considered a population of Pied Water-Tyrant, has been elevated to species status.

Split of Gray-breasted Wood-Wren

Hermit Wood-Wren (Henicorhina anachoreta), endemic to the Santa Marta massif of Colombia, has been elevated to species status. It was previous considered a population of Gray-breasted Wood-Wren.




Proposals not accepted include

splitting Mexican Duck and Mallard

splitting Yellow Warbler

splitting Scopoli’s and Cory’s shearwaters

splitting Boyd’s and Audubon’s shearwaters

re-lumping the bean-geese

splitting Barn Owl

splitting LeConte’s Thrasher

splitting Stercorarius

splitting Pacific Swift

changing Rock Pigeon back to Rock Dove

moving Lesser Whitethroat from Sylvia to Curruca

changing Common Gallinule to American Moorhen and Common Moorhen to Eurasian Moorhen