The eBird global taxonomy is updated every year in August. The updates are based primarily on changes in bird taxonomy that have occurred during the last twelve months. This year there are some minor changes for India and some major global changes concerning species, splits, lumps, shuffling and reshuffling of species/subspecies. These changes will reflect in our bird lists and range maps.
While birding in India, please ensure that your eBird account preferences on your phone app and desktop browser are set to display common names in ‘English (India)’. This will show bird names in a form more familiar to Indian birders. Please also choose the setting that displays scientific name together with English name, so that you can verify that you are choosing the intended species.
Below is a quick rundown of the taxonomy changes relevant to India:
The taxonomy of the three whitethroats in India has long been a complex and challenging issue. As of this year, Hume’s Whitethroat Sylvia althaea and Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula are lumped under Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca. So where three species were earlier considered to occur in India, now only one species occurs: Lesser Whitethroat.
All previous records of Hume’s Whitethroat Sylvia althaea and Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula are now moved to the respective subspecies, Hume’s Whitethroat Sylvia curruca althaea and Desert Whitethroat Sylvia curruca minula, under Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca [map] [species page] [my records]. Those who are able to sort out the whitethroats can use the above subspecies while listing.
Additionally, birders can use the following slashes:
In alignment with global authorities such as the IOC and HBW/Birdlife, Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus limnaeetus) and Crested Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus) are re-lumped and placed under Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus [map] [species page] [my records]
The option of selecting an identifiable subspecies group is still available and field birders should continue using such distinction wherever possible.
According to new studies, Black-billed Roller Coracias benghalensis affinis, previously considered a subspecies of Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis, is sufficiently different in plumage to be recognized as a separate species. It is now known by the name Indochinese Roller Coracias affinis.
The slash for Indian/Indochinese Roller Coracias benghalensis/affinis is retained and should be used whenever birders are unsure about the species in parts of Assam and West Bengal.
Listed briefly are some of the global taxonomy changes that involve bird species found in India. A more detailed article on the 2019 global taxonomy update can be found here.
EXTRALIMITAL SPECIES SPLITS THAT AFFECT US
White-bellied Minivet: Once considered conspecific with White-bellied Minivet Pericrocotus erythropygius, the Jerdon’s Minivet Pericrocotus albifrons is now a separate species. The former’s range is restricted to India and the latter is endemic to the plains of central Myanmar. Only White-bellied Minivet Pericrocotus erythropygius occurs in India and is now a true endemic.
Oriental White-eye: Oriental White-eye has undergone a complex split in south-east Asia and as a result our Indian birds will be called Indian White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus. Other species do not occur in India.
White-browed Shortwing: White-browed Shortwing has been split into multiple species in Oriental region and our birds will be called Himalayan Shortwing Brachypteryx cruralis.
Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher: Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher has been split into two species in Oriental region and our birds still retain the name Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher Cyornis tickelliae.
Persian Wheatear: Red-tailed Wheatear has been split into two species. Our birds will be called Persian Wheatear Oenanthe chrysopygia while Kurdish Wheatear Oenanthe xanthoprymna is extralimital.
Black-rumped Flameback: Once considered conspecific with Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense, the Red-backed Flameback Dinopium psarodes of Sri Lanka is now split as a separate species. Only Black-rumped Flameback Dinopium benghalense occurs in India.
Chinese Babax: Once considered conspecific with Chinese Babax Ianthocincla lanceolata, the Mount Victoria Babax Ianthocincla woodi of Myanmar and Mizoram is now split as a separate species. Only Mount Victoria Babax Ianthocincla woodi occurs in India.
Previously included in Japanese Bush Warbler Horornis diphone the subspecies canturians is now associated with Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis canturians. The range of subspecies canturians also includes northeastern India and hence our birds will now move from Japanese Bush Warbler to Manchurian Bush Warbler.
The subspecies Lonchura malacca rubronigra occurring in “N India (Haryana to n Bihar) and lowlands of Nepal”, is no longer associated with Tricolored Munia Lonchura malacca and now belongs with Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla. This is probably known to all Indian bird-watchers as our field guides already follow this and now eBird is also aligned.
Split from Crested Serpent-Eagle (Crested) Spilornis cheela [cheela Group], a new subspecies group Crested Serpent-Eagle (Andaman) Spilornis cheela is added in this year’s taxonomy.
NEW HYBRIDS and INTERGRADES
NEW SLASHES AND SPUHS
DEFAULT ENGLISH NAME CHANGES
eBird/Clements checklist has incorporated some of the popular common names of Indian birds (from field guides) to reduce the confusion for eBirders in India.
CHANGES IN ORDER, FAMILY, SCIENTIFIC NAMES AND TAXONOMIC SEQUENCE
Supported by the best and most current genetic information, the sequence of many families is revised and updated. Please see the Clements update for more information on this.