News & Features

2017 eBird Annual Taxonomy Update – Australia

Christmas Island Swiftlet by Hickson Fergusson/Macaulay Library. Part of a major shake-up of the widespread Glossy Swiftlet complex, the natalis subspecies gets elevated to full species: Christmas Island Swiftlet.

The annual eBird taxonomy update IS NOW UNDERWAY. Work is still going in the background to update existing checklists, update maps etc., but the revised taxonomy should start to appear as you enter new checklists.  It is worth having a look at which Australian species are being treated differently with the latest 2017 update.

NEW SPECIES and SPLITS

Glossy Swiftlet (Collocalia esculenta) has been split apart into many subspecies.  Of most relevance to Australians is the elevation of the Christmas Island birds to full species which become:

  • Christmas Island Swiftlet Collocalia natalis

 

Despite being extinct for ~200 years, this former resident of Norfolk Island has somehow become a new species:

  • Norfolk Ground-DoveAlopecoenas norfolkensis

 

NEW SUBSPECIES GROUPS

The eBird/Clements taxonomy makes extensive use of subspecies groups to allow observers to explicitly record subspecies, or groups of subspecies, that are identifiable in the field. Subspecies groups have been recognized for several more Australian species. When recording a subspecies group, be sure to include field notes regarding the characters you used to identify the group. New subspecies groups are as follows:

The distinctively rufous-bellied Kimberley subspecies of Spinifex Pigeon can now be reported directly:

  • Spinifex Pigeon (Rufous-bellied) Geophaps plumifera ferruginea
  • Spinifex Pigeon (White-bellied) Geophaps plumifera plumifera/leucogaster

 

Anyone lucky enough to report “Coxen’s” Double-eyed Fig-Parrot can now report it directly as well (fingers crossed this one gets used):

  • Double-eyed Fig-Parrot (Double-eyed) Cyclopsitta diophthalma [diophthalma Group]
  • Double-eyed Fig-Parrot (Coxen’s) Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni

 

The White-quilled subspecies of Blue-faced Honeyeater (Kimberley and Top-end of NT) can be reported directly (future tick insurance?):

  • Blue-faced Honeyeater (White-quilled) Entomyzon cyanotis albipennis
  • Blue-faced Honeyeater (Blue-faced) Entomyzon cyanotis [cyanotis Group]

 

Western Whipbirds in WA (“Black-throated”) can be reported separately from those east of the Nullarbor (“White-bellied”):

  • Western Whipbird (Black-throated) Psophodes nigrogularis nigrogularis/oberon
  • Western Whipbird (White-bellied) Psophodes nigrogularis leucogaster/lashmari

 

The subspecies from the Kimberley Coast (“Kimberley Flycatcher”) can be reported directly as a subspecies group:

  • Lemon-bellied Flycatcher (Lemon-bellied) Microeca flavigaster [flavigaster Group]
  • Lemon-bellied Flycatcher (Kimberley) Microeca flavigaster tormenti

 

Slash Taxa

Some species pairs may be difficult to separate in the field, or were previously lumped, and in these cases eBird allows you to record the fact that you saw one or other of the pair but could not decide which. New slash taxa for Australia include:

  • Australasian/Hoary-headed Grebe [Tachybaptus novaehollandiae/Poliocephalus poliocephalus]
  • Masked/White-browed Woodswallow [Artamus personatus/superciliosus]

 

Species-level (spuhs)

  • Melithreptus sp. (for poor views of White-naped/White-throated/Black-chinned Honeyeater)

 

Hybrids

  • Zebra x Double-barred Finch (hybrid)

 

Bug fixes

A sharp-eyed eBirder spotted that we had the subspecies reversed – so this year’s update fixes them back to their proper place!

  • Shining Bronze-Cuckoo (Shining) Chrysococcyx lucidus lucidus
  • Shining Bronze-Cuckoo (Golden) Chrysococcyx lucidus plagosus