Updated bird names for The Sibley Guide to Birds

This list covers changes (through Nov 2009) to the official names of birds as published by the American Ornithologist’s Union (AOU) in periodic supplements to the AOU checklist. The checklist and all supplements can be found here.

Note that the names printed in the Sibley Guides have not been revised. These are the changes that will be made, but at this time there are no definite plans for revised editions of any of the guides.

Bold names below are the current official names, and below each is the year of the AOU decision and a brief description of the change. Interested readers are urged to view the full accounts of changes in the AOU supplements for more details and for references.

Changes in taxonomic sequence are not listed here.

Note that the AOU checklist includes Caribbean and Central American species as well as North American (including Hawaii). The region covered by the Sibley Guide to Birds is the same as the ABA Checklist.

Splits and Lumps since 2000 affecting species counts:

Canada Goose split into:
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii
Split by AOU 2004 – formerly part of Canada Goose Branta canadensis; these two are now treated as two separate species.

Blue Grouse split into:
Dusky Grouse Dendragapus obscurus
Sooty Grouse Dendragapus fuliginosus
Split by AOU 2006, formerly these two species were merged as Blue Grouse Dendragapus obscurus. Now treated as two separate species.

Common Snipe split into:
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Wilson’s Snipe Gallinago delicata
Split by AOU 2002, formerly both Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. These are now treated as two species

Tufted Titmouse split into:
Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor
Black-crested Titmouse Baeolophus atricristatus
Split by AOU 2002, formerly part of Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor; now treated as two species.

Black-backed Wagtail lumped with:
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Lumped by AOU 2005 with Black-backed Wagtail Motacilla lugens , which was formerly considered a full species but is now considered a subspecies of White Wagtail

List of all name changes since 2000 in taxonomic order

Cackling Goose  Branta hutchinsii
AOU 2004, formerly part of Canada Goose Branta canadensis

Rock Ptarmigan  Lagopus muta
AOU 2004, formerly Lagopus mutus

White-tailed Ptarmigan  Lagopus leucura
AOU 2004, formerly Lagopus leucurus

Dusky Grouse  Dendragapus obscurus
AOU 2006, formerly merged with following as Blue Grouse

Sooty Grouse  Dendragapus fuliginosus
AOU 2006, formerly part of Blue Grouse Dendragapus obscurus

Roseate Spoonbill  Platalea ajaja
AOU 2002, formerly Ajaia ajaja

American Flamingo  Phoenicopterus ruber
AOU 2008, formerly part of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus of the Old World, but now considered a separate species. Greater Flamingo occurs in North America only as escaped captives.

Gray Hawk  Buteo nitidus
AOU 2006, formerly Asturina nitida

Crested Caracara  Caracara cheriway
AOU 2000, formerly part of Caracara plancus. English name incorrectly listed as Northern Caracara in first and second printing of The Sibley Guide to Birds (corrected in the fourth and later printings).

Purple Gallinule  Porphyrio martinica
AOU 2002, formerly Porphyrula martinica

Lesser Sand-Plover  Charadrius mongolus
AOU 2004, formerly Mongolian Plover

Spotted Sandpiper  Actitis macularius
AOU 2004, formerly Actitis macularia

Gray-tailed Tattler  Tringa brevipes
AOU 2006, formerly Heteroscelus brevipes

Wandering Tattler Tringa incana
AOU 2006, formerly Heteroscelus incanus.

Willet  Tringa semipalmata
AOU 2006, formerly Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

Wilson’s Snipe  Gallinago delicata
AOU 2002, formerly part of Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago.

Red Phalarope  Phalaropus fulicarius
AOU 2002, formerly Phalaropus fulicaria

Bonaparte’s Gull  Chroicocephalus philadelphia
AOU 2008, formerly Larus philadelphia

Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus
AOU 2008, formerly Larus ridibundus

Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus
AOU 2008, formerly Larus minutus

Laughing Gull  Leucophaeus atricilla
AOU 2008, formerly Larus atricilla

Franklin’s Gull  Leucophaeus pipixcan
AOU 2008, formerly Larus pipixcan

Yellow-legged Gull  Larus michahellis
AOU 2007, formerly Larus cachinnans

Sooty Tern  Onychoprion fuscatus
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna fuscata

Bridled Tern  Onychoprion anaethetus
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna anaethetus

Aleutian Tern  Onychoprion aleuticus
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna aleutica

Least Tern  Sternula antillarum
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna antillarum

Gull-billed Tern  Gelochelidon nilotica
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna nilotica

Caspian Tern  Hydroprogne caspia
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna caspia

Royal Tern  Thalasseus maximus
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna maxima

Sandwich Tern  Thalasseus sandvicensis
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna sandvicensis

Elegant Tern  Thalasseus elegans
AOU 2006, formerly Sterna elegans

Family STERCORARIIDAE: Skuas and Jaegers
AOU 2006, formerly subfamily Stercorariinae. Moved from before gulls to after skimmers.

Rock Pigeon  Columba livia
AOU 2003, formerly Rock Dove

White-crowned Pigeon  Patagioenas leucocephala
AOU 2003, formerly Columba leucocephala

Red-billed Pigeon  Patagioenas flavirostris
AOU 2003, formerly Columba flavirostris

Band-tailed Pigeon  Patagioenas fasciata
AOU 2003, formerly Columba fasciata

African Collared-Dove  Streptopelia roseogrisea
AOU 2006, formerly Ringed Turtle-Dove Streptopelia risoria

Western Screech-Owl  Megascops kennicottii
AOU 2003, formerly Otus kennicottii

Eastern Screech-Owl  Megascops asio
AOU 2003, formerly Otus asio

Whiskered Screech-Owl  Megascops trichopsis
AOU 2003, formerly Otus trichopsis

Snowy Owl  Bubo scandiacus
AOU 2003, formerly Nyctea scandiaca

Green Violetear  Colibri thalassinus
AOU 2008. Formerly Green Violet-Ear

Eared Quetzal  Euptilotis neoxenus
AOU 2002, formerly Eared Trogon

Ringed Kingfisher  Megaceryle torquata
AOU 2007, formerly Ceryle torquatus

Belted Kingfisher  Megaceryle alcyon
AOU 2007, formerly Ceryle alcyon

American Three-toed Woodpecker  Picoides dorsalis
AOU 2003, formerly Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, but that name is now restricted to Old World populations, which are split as a separate species.

Black-capped Vireo  Vireo atricapilla
AOU 2003, formerly Vireo atricapillus

Black-billed Magpie  Pica hudsonia
AOU 2000, formerly Pica pica, but that name now applies to Old World populations, which are split as separate species. The English name listed incorrectly as American Magpie in the first and second printings of the Sibley Guide to Birds (corrected in the fourth and later printings).

Black-capped Chickadee  Poecile atricapillus
AOU 2003, formerly Poecile atricapilla

Boreal Chickadee  Poecile hudsonicus
AOU 2009, formerly Poecile hudsonica

Gray-headed Chickadee  Poecile cinctus
AOU 2009, formerly Poecile cincta

Black-crested Titmouse  Baeolophus atricristatus
AOU 2002, formerly part of Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor. Now elevated to full species

Crested Myna  Acridotheres cristatellus
AOU 2005, removed from the list of established introduced species

Clay-colored Thrush  Turdus grayi
AOU 2008, formerly Clay-colored Robin

Eastern Yellow Wagtail  Motacilla tschutschensis
AOU 2004, formerly part of Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava; now separated as a distinct species. The new Yellow Wagtail (sensu stricto), of Europe, North Africa, and southern and western Asia, has not been recorded in North America.

White Wagtail  Motacilla alba
AOU 2005, former species Black-backed Wagtail Motacilla lugens is now considered a subspecies of White Wagtail and the two are lumped under the name White Wagtail.

Worm-eating Warbler  Helmitheros vermivorum
AOU 2004, formerly Helmitheros vermivorus

Ovenbird  Seiurus aurocapilla
AOU 2003, formerly Seiurus aurocapillus

INCERTAE SEDIS (Bananaquits)
AOU 2005, formerly Family Coerebidae, but the family placement of this species is now uncertain.

Blue Grosbeak  Passerina caerulea
AOU 2002, formerly Guiraca caerulea

Nelson’s Sparrow  Ammodramus nelsoni
AOU 2009, formerly Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow

Saltmarsh Sparrow  Ammodramus caudacutus
AOU 2009, formerly Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow

Common Redpoll  Acanthis flammea
AOU 2009, formerly Carduelis flammea

Hoary Redpoll  Acanthis hornemanni
AOU 2009, formerly Carduelis hornemanni

Pine Siskin  Spinus pinus
AOU 2009, formerly Carduelis pinus

Lesser Goldfinch  Spinus psaltria
AOU 2009, formerly Carduelis psaltria

Lawrence’s Goldfinch  Spinus lawrencei
AOU 2009, formerly Carduelis lawrencei

American Goldfinch  Spinus tristis
AOU 2009, formerly Carduelis tristis


In addition to the changes listed, the following species not included in the Sibley Guide have had significant changes:

Bean Goose split into:
Taiga Bean-Goose  Anser fabalis
Tundra Bean-Goose  Anser serrirostris

AOU 2007, both formerly lumped as Bean Goose Anser fabalis [not included in Sibley Guide]

Another noteworthy item in 2007 was the addition of Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus to the list of exotic species breeding in North America. Apparently two nests have been found in southern Florida, and if the species’ history in Europe is any guide, it could be an “established exotic” here soon.

7 thoughts on “Updated bird names for The Sibley Guide to Birds”

  1. Hi Chris,
    Just to be clear, the book hasn’t been updated yet (and I just edited the post above to make that clearer). These name changes will appear in the next edition of the guide, whenever that happens (no date yet).

  2. Hi David,
    Maybe you can help point me in the right direction more quickly than searching endlessly through Google…
    Is there a place to see just the most recent name/code changes to the AOU alpha code list (Pyle and DeSante)?
    I am in the process of updating our bird alpha code list and want to make sure I have all the name/code changes, but don’t really want to have to go through the whole Pyle and DeSante alpha code list bird by bird.
    Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

    1. Least Grebe is next to Pied-billed in the big guide and the Eastern. Maybe you are looking at the Western guide, which does not include it since there were only a few records in AZ and CA when that book was published. Recently a few individuals are present more or less year-round in AZ, so it should be included.

  3. hi David, Do you have an ‘easy list’ of changes since your 2000 Sibley Guide? Think it’s about time I made some marks in the margins to avoid report mistakes! I find it easier to use my guide than to wade through the IOC lists.


    Lynn M. Bacon
    TerraQuatic, LLC

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