With the annual publication of the supplement to the AOU checklist, here is a listing of the changes to names in the Sibley Guide to Birds. There were a lot of other changes announced to names of neotropical birds, which are not discussed here. There were also some big changes in the sequence of species and families, which will be the subject of an upcoming post or two.
A pdf of the supplement can be seen here: http://www.aou.org/auk/content/129/3/0573-0588.pdf
One split affects the species count
Scripps’s Murrelet Synthliboramphus scrippsi – called “Northern” in the Sibley Guide
Guadalupe Murrelet Synthliboramphus hypoleucus – called “Southern” in the Sibley Guide
Formerly lumped as Xantus’s Murrelet Synthliboramphus scrippsi, now split into two species, both of which get new common names. This split has been anticipated for a long time. Both are found in the US and are fully covered in the Sibley Guide to Birds.
Splits of extralimital species
Audubon’s Shearwater is split (Galapagos Shearwater is now a full species) but only Audubon’s occurs in North America, and it retains the same name as before.
Gray Hawk is split into two species, but only one occurs in North America, and that species retains the common name Gray Hawk, but with a new scientific name Buteo plagiatus. The more southern Gray-lined Hawk does not occur in our area.
Changes in genera leading to name changes
The genus Stellula no longer exists, being merged into the genus Selasphorus, so Calliope Hummingbird, formerly Stellula calliope, is now:
Calliope Hummingbird Selasphorus calliope
Four species of North American nightjars were formerly in the genus Caprimulgus, but all of the native North American species are now placed in the new genus Antrostomus. The genus Caprimulgus remains on the North American list by virtue of a single record of an Old World species, Grey Nightjar, in the Aleutians.
Chuck-will’s-widow Antrostomus carolinensis
Buff-collared Nightjar Antrostomus ridgwayi
Eastern Whip-poor-will Antrostomus vociferus
Mexican Whip-poor-will Antrostomus arizonae
The genus Thryothorus is now reserved solely for Carolina Wren, and the other (mostly tropical) species in that genus are moved into new genera. The only one on the North American list is:
Sinaloa Wren Thryophilus sinaloa
New DNA evidence shows that Sage Sparrow (formerly Amphispiza belli) is not closely related to other species in that genus, such as Black-throated Sparrow. It becomes the sole member of a new genus:
Sage Sparrow Artemisiospiza belli
Three species of finches formerly in the genus Carpodacus are moved into a new genus, based on DNA evidence. The genus Carpodacus is now reserved for Old World species, including Common Rosefinch, while the New World species are placed in the genus Haemorhous.
Purple Finch Haemorhous purpureus
Cassin’s Finch Haemorhous cassinii
House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus
A few other minor changes in names
Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus, formerly Common Peafowl
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinicus, formerly P. martinica
Island Canary Serinus canaria, formerly Common Canary
There are also quite a few changes of sequence, with hummingbirds and some other families having genera and species shuffled around. The biggest changes are in the sequence of the orders Falcons and parrots, which are moved to come just before the Passerines (just after woodpeckers). That’s a relatively small move for parrots, but a huge move for Falcons. Not only does it put them in a whole new section of the list, but it moves them away from the hawks, and I suspect that will be the hardest thing for people to accept.
Interesting glimpses into the process
The proposal to split Savannah Sparrow failed by the narrowest of margins, with seven votes in favor and 3 against. Usually this would be enough to pass, but the comments reveal that, while there were seven votes in favor of a split, there was no agreement on how to split the species, and those seven members voted for four different options. Clearly there is a general feeling that there is more than one species of Savannah Sparrow, but until there is a little more clarity on where the divisions should be made, and how many, we will continue to have one species.
The Savannah sparrow proposal is in this pdf file: http://www.aou.org/committees/nacc/proposals/2011-C.pdf
Comments on the Savannah Sparrow proposal are here: http://www.aou.org/committees/nacc/proposals/2011_C_votes_web.php#2011-C–9