Changes to the AOU Check-list of North American Birds

(July 1, 2015, The Auk: Ornithological Advances)—The latest Supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union Check-list of North American Birds was published this week in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, and includes several major updates to the organization of the continent’s bird species. More than just a list, the Check-list groups birds into genera, families, and orders based on their evolutionary relationships, and some of the most significant changes in this year’s Supplement involve the tanagers, family Thraupidae. “Recent genetic studies have overturned much of what we thought we knew about what constitutes a tanager,” explains Terry Chesser, Chairman of the AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature for North and Middle America. As a result, this Supplement sees 6 genera and 11 species, many of which are found only in the Caribbean, moved from the Thraupidae into a temporary category of their own as a result of genetic analysis showing they’re not closely related to tanagers after all. 16 genera and 36 species, including seedeaters and finches, have been moved from their previous homes into the Thraupidae family for the opposite reason, and the Hawaiian honeycreepers (part of the Fringillidae family) have experienced a similar reorganization.

Of particular interest to birders will also be the new species added to the Check-list—not species new to science, but rather birds already known from elsewhere that have only been recently confirmed to be found in North America. These include the Egyptian Goose, Waved Albatross, Zino’s Petrel, Whistling Heron, Dusky Pigeon, Bicolored Wren, and Common Redstart. Get out your binoculars and life lists, birders, and start looking! The 56th Supplement to the Check-list is available at http://www.aoucospubs.org/doi/full/10.1642/AUK-15-73.1.

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