2018 eBird Annual Taxonomy Update - India

By eBird India August 20, 2018
Great Gray Shrike (Indian) Lanius excubitor lahtora

The eBird/Clements Taxonomy for 2018 has been published. This year’s update has been relatively stable with fewer changes world over. There is only one major update that concerns India (Grey Shrikes) and we had nine changes in English names (towards the better), 25 changes in genus names, one species name change and seven very minor spelling/gender corrections in the species name.

Below is a quick rundown of the details relevant to India:



The regionally occurring subspecies of Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor (homeyeri) and Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (lahtora and pallidirostris) have been moved under Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor. The taxon Lanius meridionalis is an extralimital species that is restricted to Iberian peninsula (Iberian Grey Shrike). 

This taxonomy is in line with Howard & Moore 4th edition, Handbook of Birds of the World/BirdLife International, The Ripley Guide 2nd Edition (Rasmussen & Anderton 2012) and ‘India Checklist’ (Praveen et al. 2018). IOC is also in alignment with this taxonomy except that they recognize Steppe Grey Shrike as an additional species.

In effect, India will lose one species as our resident and regularly occurring Grey Shrike gets lumped with the vagrant species. Our Grey Shrike will bear the name Great Grey Shrike (as it used to be 20 years back!). In this case, eBird would have moved all your Southern Grey Shrike records to Great Grey Shrike (Indian).

The subspecies relevant to the Indian region are: 



While some of the name changes are due to splits in taxonomy (such as the Knob-billed Duck, which is now the common name for the species found in the old world while Comb Duck is the species found in the new world), most of the name changes have been made to reflect the most widely accepted names (such as the Black-and-orange Flycatcher and the Nilgiri Sholakili). Hopefully, this should reduce the confusion for Indian eBirders who do not use the English (India) names for their checklists.

  • Knob-billed Duck (from Comb Duck)
  • Black-winged Kite (from Black-shouldered Kite)
  • Eurasian Scops Owl (from European Scops Owl)
  • Rock Sparrow (from Rock Petronia)
  • Himalayan Black-lored Tit (from Black-lored Tit)
  • Indian Yellow Tit (from Indian Tit)
  • Indian Spotted Creeper (from Indian Spotted-Creeper)
  • Nilgiri Sholakili (from Nilgiri Blue Robin)
  • White-bellied Sholakili (from White-bellied Blue Robin)
  • Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (from Korean Flycatcher)
  • Black-and-orange Flycatcher (from Black-and-rufous Flycatcher)



These changes reflect new knowledge of classification, including re-arrangement of taxonomic orders within a genus/multiple genera and the recognition of new genera.

Recognition of Lewinia genus

  • Slaty-breasted Rail Lewinia striata 

Re-sequencing of certain Woodpeckers

  • Greater Yellownape Chrysophlegma flavinucha
  • Brown-capped Woodpecker Yungipicus nanus
  • Gray-capped Woodpecker Yungipicus canicapillus
  • Brown-fronted Woodpecker Dendrocoptes auriceps
  • Yellow-crowned Woodpecker Leiopicus mahrattensis
  • Crimson-breasted Woodpecker Dryobates cathpharius

Recognition of Gymnornis* genus

  • Chestnut-shouldered Petronia Gymnornis xanthocollis

* There has been a mistake here in the eBird taxonomy and the genus should be Gymnoris. This will be corrected in the 2019 taxonomic update.

Merging Melophus genus with Emberiza

  • Crested Bunting Emberiza lathami

Recognition of Arundinax genus

  • Thick-billed Warbler Arundinax aedon

Re-sequencing of certain Bulbuls

  • Nicobar Bulbul Hypsipetes nicobariensis
  • Flame-throated Bulbul Rubigula gularis
  • Black-crested Bulbul Rubigula flaviventris
  • Black-headed Bulbul Brachypodius atriceps
  • Andaman Bulbul Brachypodius fuscoflavescens
  • Grey-headed Bulbul Brachypodius priocephalus

Merging Seicercus genus with Phylloscopus  

  • White-spectacled Warbler Phylloscopus intermedius
  • Grey-cheeked Warbler Phylloscopus poliogenys
  • Golden-spectacled Warbler Phylloscopus burkii
  • Grey-crowned Warbler Phylloscopus tephrocephalus
  • Whistler’s Warbler Phylloscopus whistleri
  • Chestnut-crowned Warbler Phylloscopus castaniceps

Recognition of Laticilla genus

  • Rufous-vented Prinia Laticilla burnesii
  • Swamp Prinia Laticilla cinerascens

Recognition of Otocichla genus

  • Chinese Thrush Otocichla mupinensis

Change in Scientific name

  • Russet Sparrow Passer cinnamomeus (from Passer rutilans)



As with hybrids, eBird has a long list of “slashes” and “spuhs”. These are useful in the field if you get a good enough look at a bird to know it was, for example, a phylloscopus warbler, but not to tell if it was a Green Warbler/Greenish Warbler/Hume’s Warbler/Large-billed Leaf Warbler and so on. In such instances, you can use “phylloscopus sp.”. If you are able to narrow it down to two species options, we have “slashes”, which mention the full common name (and scientific name) for the species that are potential species for your observation (e.g., Greenish/Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides/magnirostris).

New slashes:

  • Fulvous/Lesser Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna bicolor/javanica
  • Rock/Hill Pigeon Columba livia/rupestris
  • Eurasian/Red Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto/tranquebarica
  • Greater/Lesser Coucal Centropus sinensis/bengalensis
  • Large/Common Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides/varius
  • Lesser/Indian Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus/micropterus
  • Lesser/Oriental Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus/optatus
  • Curlew Sandpiper/Dunlin Calidris ferruginea/alpina
  • Black-bellied/River Tern Sterna acuticauda/aurantia
  • Clanga/Aquila sp. Clanga/Aquila sp.
  • Malabar/Oriental Pied-Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus/albirostris
  • European/Indian Roller Coracias garrulus/benghalensis
  • Lineated/Brown-headed Barbet Psilopogon lineatus/zeylanicus
  • Himalayan/Common Flameback Dinopium shorii/javanense
  • Alexandrine/Rose-ringed Parakeet Psittacula eupatria/krameri
  • Malabar/Common Woodshrike Tephrodornis sylvicola/pondicerianus
  • Singing/Indian Bushlark Mirafra cantillans/erythroptera
  • Gray-throated Martin/Bank Swallow Riparia chinensis/riparia
  • Black-breasted/Rufous-vented Tit Periparus rufonuchalis/rubidiventris
  • Mountain/Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus sindianus/collybita
  • Greenish/Large-billed Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides/magnirostris
  • Zitting/Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola juncidis/exilis
  • Red-billed/Coral-billed Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus ochraceiceps/ferruginosus
  • Streak-breasted/White-browed Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis/schisticeps
  • Common/Striated Babbler Turdoides caudata/earlei
  • Large/Hill Blue Flycatcher Cyornis magnirostris/banyumas
  • Blue-throated/Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher Cyornis rubeculoides/tickelliae
  • Nilgiri/Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias albicaudatus/thalassinus
  • White-browed Bushchat/Siberian Stonechat Saxicola insignis/maurus
  • Pale-billed/Nilgiri Flowerpecker Dicaeum erythrorhynchos/concolor
  • Black-and-yellow/Collared Grosbeak Mycerobas icterioides/affinis
  • Dark-rumped/Spot-winged Rosefinch Carpodacus edwardsii/rodopeplus
  • Pink-browed/Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch Carpodacus rodochroa/thura
  • Streaked/Bengal Weaver Ploceus manyar/benghalensis

New spuhs:

  • Anas sp. Anas sp. : For most ducks
  • Thalasseus sp. Thalasseus sp. : For Crested Terns
  • Pycnonotus sp. Pycnonotus sp. : For Bulbuls



The following have been assigned new English (India) names. These will be reflected on your checklists if you change your common name language to English (India) from the settings menu on the app or the preferences menu on the web portal.

  • Stint sp. (Calidris sp.) : instead of Calidris sp./Peep sp.
  • Korean Flycatcher (Yellow-rumped Flycatcher) : instead of Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
  • Buff-chested Babbler (Indian Rufous-fronted Babbler) : instead of Buff-chested Babbler



The spelling of the species below have undergone corrections from minor spelling errors incurred in the previous taxonomic update.

  • Crow-billed Drongo  Dicrurus annectens
  • Indian Spotted Creeper Salpornis spilonota
  • Yellow-bellied Fairy-Fantail Chelidorhynx hypoxanthus
  • Ashambu Laughingthrush Montecincla meridionalis
  • Spot-winged Starling Saroglossa spilopterus
  • White-bellied Blue Flycatcher Cyornis pallidipes
  • Blue-capped Rock-Thrush Monticola cinclorhyncha


Important links:

eBird taxonomy update 2018 – post on eBird Central Portal

Updates and corrections – Aug 2018: For the details, references and accounts of every change and update.

Downloadable checklist (Clements 2018)