Once a year, eBird updates the taxonomy it uses for the world’s birds, following the most recent edition of the Clements Checklist of Birds of the World and other published recommendations. For example, for birds in Central America, most of the taxonomic changes adopted each July by the North American Classification Committee (NACC) of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) are reflected in the annual eBird taxonomy update.
The latest issue of The Auk (the AOU publication) includes a supplement of the AOU Check-list of North American Birds with some important changes affecting the taxonomy of the birds in North America (and Hawaii). We will mention only those affecting the birds found in Central America, including not only splits and lumps, but also name changes and other issues. Also included are the differences of these changes with respect to the taxonomy followed by eBird, when pertinent.
In taxonomic order, let’s start with the shorebirds. Many species formerly placed in monotypic genera are now included within the genus Calidris. That means, we now list the Surfbird as Calidris virgata, Buff-breasted Sandpiper as Calidris subruficollis and Ruff as Calidris pugnax. The order of the species within the genus Calidris also changed, as well as the sequence of the families within the Charadriiformes order.
The only member of the genus Otus for the region, the Flammulated Owl, is now treated as a separate genus on the basis of genetic data, and known as Psiloscops flammeolus.
The Green-crowned Woodnymph is re-lumped with the Violet-crowned Woodnymph and re-adopt the name Crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania colombica) based on better understanding of the ranges and intergrades within these two forms in Colombia (however, they are not known to come into contact in Panama). eBird retains field-identifiable forms when possible, so that you can report your sightings more specifically. For Crowned Woodnymph you can still report at the level of the former species, using the option for Crowned Woodnymph (Violet-crowned) and Crowned Woodnymph (Green-crowned). In this particular case, it is also possible to report at the subspecies level. These options and their ranges are:
Thalurania colombica venusta/townsendi Crowned Woodnymph (Northern Violet-crowned) – Belize and e Guatemala to se Honduras, e Nicaragua to w Panama
Thalurania colombica colombica/rostrifera Crowned Woodnymph (Colombian Violet-crowned) – N Colombia and nw Venezuela
Thalurania colombica [fannyi Group] Crowned Woodnymph (Northern Green-crowned) – E Panama to w Colombia, w-c Colombia (Cauca Valley and adjacent Andes), Pacific slope of Andes of nw Ecuador
Thalurania colombica hypochlora Crowned Woodnymph (Emerald-bellied) – Pacific lowlands of Ecuador to extreme n Peru
We encourage eBird reporting at the finest level that you can be certain of. Even if the option you are looking for is not on the checklist, it can always be found using “Add a Species” in eBird. Options like hummingbird sp. and Crowned Woodnymph (Violet-crowned Woodnymph ) can be found using “Add a Species” even if that option is not on the data-entry checklist.
Black-crowned Antshrike (Thamnophilus atrinucha) is the new name for the Western Slaty-Antshrike due to genetic evidence indicating that our form is not related to the South American slaty-antshrikes, in spite of the physical similarities. Also, the Latin name of the Rufous-rumped Antwren changed to Euchrepomis callinota.
Immaculate Antbird is split into two species. The two subspecies (Myrmeciza immaculata zeledoni from Costa Rica and western Panama, and Myrmeciza immaculata macrorhyncha from eastern Panama and western Colombia and Ecuador) now comprise Zeledon’s Antbird (Myrmeciza zeledoni). Myrmeciza immaculata is now known as Blue-lored Antbird and restricted to Colombia and Venezuela.
In 2012, the South American Classification Committee (SACC) and eBird split the Thrush-like Schiffornis into four species, and the NACC followed suit in 2013. Two forms occur in the Central American region: the dull, uniformly olivaceous Northern Schiffornis (Schiffornis veraepacis) found in Central America from the Caribbean slope of Mexico to Nicaragua, both slopes in Costa Rica, both lowlands and highlands of western Panama, and highlands of central and eastern Panamá (except the Alturas de Nique massif); and the more rufous, gray-bellied Russet-winged Schiffornis (S. stenorhyncha) found in lowlands of central and eastern Panamá (and all elevations of the Alturas de Nique massif). Note that Russet-winged Schiffornis is a common name change for SACC and eBird, which previously used Rufous-winged Schiffornis.
The Green Manakin is now called Xenopipo holochlora, and both Red-capped and Golden-headed Manakins changed their genus to Ceratopipra instead of Pipra. Also, the checklist sequence of the manakins changed. In the family Mimidae, the linear sequence changed according to phylogenetic analyses of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences.
According to Gregory and Dickinson (2012), Ptilogonys (and Ptilogonatidae, the Latin name of the Silky-Flycatchers family) is an incorrect spelling and has no nomenclatural standing. The AOU checklist corrected this and now the name of the family is changed slightly to Ptiliogonatidae and the genus to Ptiliogonys; this change affects the Latin name of the Gray Silky-Flycatcher (Ptiliogonys cinereus), and that of the Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher (Ptiliogonys caudatus). However, this spelling has not yet been adopted by the eBird taxonomy, but it will be included in the August 2014 update.
The Latin name of the Common Bush-Tanager changed to Chlorospingus flavopectus (however, there are no splits in this group). The eBird taxonomy also changed the English name of the Bush-Tanagers to Chlorospingus, following the recommendation of the South American Classification Committee.
Some issues are pending and may be dealt with in the next AOU Checklist supplement, in the summer of 2014. Others were not even mentioned… notably the Blue-crowned/Whooping Motmot, a change already adopted by the eBird taxonomy following the work of Stiles (2009) and the South American Classification Committee. Perhaps more studies are needed before a formal pronunciation of the North American Classification Committee.