Whereas the American Ornithological Society addresses the difficulty of eponyms — hen species named for individuals — with a new ad-hoc committee, the common annual work of contemplating modifications to the taxonomy of birds goes on. The North American Classification Committee (NACC) is the physique that considers proposals for species splits and lumps, higher-level taxonomic modifications primarily based on new analysis, additions to the primary North American guidelines of species after latest sightings, and some other modifications essential to hold the guidelines updated.
Final yr, the NACC cut up Mexican Duck from Mallard and lumped Northwestern Crow with American Crow, amongst different modifications.
The NACC will doubtless announce its 2021 guidelines choices in June or July, however because of the proposals which can be posted on its web site, we already know what subjects it’s taking a look at. Listed below are a couple of of the proposals that caught my eye as probably the most related to birders:
Break up Mew Gull. This suggestion would acknowledge the North American subspecies brachyrhynchus as a full species, separate from subspecies in Europe and Asia. The North American birds breed in Alaska and western Canada and winter largely alongside the Pacific coast. The proposal additionally requires the frequent identify to be Quick-billed Gull.
Break up Band-rumped Storm-Petrel. A latest examine reveals vital genetic variations among the many numerous populations of this seabird. The suggestion is to separate it into three species: Hydrobates castro, which is broadly distributed within the North Atlantic; Hydrobates jabejabe, a year-round breeder on the Cape Verde Islands; and Hydrobates cryptoleucura, broadly distributed within the Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans. The frequent names for the primary two might be Madeiran Storm-Petrel and Cape Verde Storm-Petrel; it’s not clear what the third hen’s frequent identify could also be.
Break up Magnificent Frigatebird. This proposal would cut up the birds that breed on the Galápagos Islands from the opposite extra widespread Magnificent Frigatebirds of the Pacific and Caribbean. This concept appears unlikely to go right now as a result of the South American Classification Committee thought-about the identical proposal, and all members voted in opposition to it. Nevertheless, it could be revisited sooner or later as members of the committee urged they’d prefer to see extra element about frigatebird genetics.
Break up Bahama Nuthatch. Latest genetic research reveal distinct variations between this hen and the mainland Brown-headed Nuthatch, suggesting the Bahama birds be cut up. After Hurricane Dorian in 2019, nevertheless, Bahama Nuthatch might already be extinct.
Lump McKay’s Bunting with Snow Bunting. McKay’s Bunting breeds solely on St. Matthew and Corridor islands within the Bering Sea and winters alongside the coast of western Alaska. Whereas the male McKay’s look is totally different from the extra widespread Snow Bunting, its track and name are related, and a latest genetic examine discovered “no mounted variations between the species.” The proposal suggests McKay’s be thought-about a subspecies of Snow Bunting.
Doable genus change for Ruby-crowned Kinglet. This proposal is notable as a result of it means that Ruby-crowned Kinglet is just not all that intently associated to Golden-crowned Kinglet, regardless of their related frequent names. Ruby-crowned’s scientific identify is Regulus calendula. Golden-crowned Kinglet is within the Regulus genus, too, as are the Goldcrest and Firecrests of Europe and Asia. (May these species names be any cooler?) Anyway, as way back as 1853, naturalists famous how Ruby-crowned’s plumage and different elements of its anatomy differ from the opposite Regulus species, so it was put in its personal genus, Corthylio. Nevertheless, for the reason that first American Ornithologists’ Union guidelines again in 1886, it has been part of Regulus. The proposal that the NACC is contemplating suggests assigning the Ruby-crowned to Corthylio once more as a result of DNA proof reveals that it diverged from the opposite kinglet and crest species round 15 million years in the past. If adopted, this wouldn’t have an effect on the frequent English names of both of our kinglets, however it might give us a greater understanding of the evolutionary relationships of those frequent and pleasant migratory songbirds.
A model of this text can be printed in “Birding Briefs” within the July/August 2021 subject of BirdWatching journal.