The 2022 eBird taxonomy update is COMPLETE. At this stage, all major taxonomic revisions are done including your lists, range maps, bar charts, and region and hotspot pages. Small database changes may continue for the next several weeks.
Read ‘Reviewing your records for changes‘ below and click the [my records] links in the full list of updates to confirm that your species are where you expect them to be. If you still see records appearing in unexpected ways please write to us.
If you use eBird Mobile, make sure you go to the App Store or Google Play Store and update to the latest version. For the next few weeks, we recommend installing pack and app updates immediately as they become available. This will make sure you have the most up-to-date lists for reporting.
Read on for more information about what’s changed. For a complete list of all taxonomic changes, check out the 2022 eBird Taxonomic Update page.
What to expect in 2022
We’re going through your more than 1,053,114,868 eBird observations and updating them to match the most current ornithological knowledge.
This year’s update (v2022) includes 5 newly-described species, 118 species gained through ‘splits’ of one species into two or more different species, and 41 species lost through ‘lumps’—birds that were formerly considered to be multiple species, but now are considered to be a single species—resulting in a net gain of 82 species and a new total of 10,906 species worldwide. There are also many changes to scientific names and some minor changes to the sequence of species based on their evolutionary relationships. Read the full list of taxonomic changes here.
Importantly, this revision begins the collaborative process of aligning global bird checklists, with the goal of a single consensus taxonomy. The Working Group Avian Checklists (WGAC) involves representatives from eBird/Clements, BirdLife International, the IOC World Bird List, Avibase, AOS-NACC, AOS-SACC, and other global experts in taxonomy, nomenclature, and classification. This is an ongoing effort, with about 50% of the world’s bird species assessed so far. It will take several years for eBird to fully incorporate these changes but we are committed to improving the clarity, efficiency, and accuracy of bird taxonomy through support for this team effort.
Reviewing your records for changes
You might want to review the list of changes below and check your Life List—did you lose species, or gain some?
Most of the changes below should provide direct links to view your personal reports of that species. However, if you want to review your records of new ‘slashes’ like Olive-faced/Ochre-lored Flycatcher or ‘sp.’ like the Mouse-colored Tyrannulet complex Nesotriccus sp. try looking for your checklist on the range map and then click on the marker for your list and open it from there.
For those who are willing to wait a little longer, a highly-anticipated update to My eBird will soon allow you to access all records of all taxa from your Life List. Yes, you’ll soon be able to view ALL of your past hybrid, ‘slash’, and ‘sp.’ reports from your Sightings Lists! We anticipate this update before the end of the year. (We include some links to your personal links for slashes, since we know these links will be active soon, even if they don’t work yet.)
Name changes: With more than 400 name changes this year alone, staying on top of name revisions can be a challenge. Consulting Avibase is one of the best ways to keep track. Just type any bird name and Avibase will show you the history of that name, and—if it differs from eBird—Avibase will also give the eBird equivalent for that name. Try it with “Louisiana Heron”, for example.
2022 eBird Taxonomy Update Changes
Below, we highlight a few examples of the taxonomic changes that might affect your life list:
For a complete list of all taxonomic changes, check out the 2022 eBird Taxonomic Update.
2022 New Species
Each year, a few newly described species or newly recognized populations are named and added to the eBird/Clements taxonomy. This just goes to show how much remains to be learned about the birds of the world!
- New Caledonian Storm-Petrel Fregetta lineata [map] [media] [my records]
- Meratus White-eye Zosterops meratusensis [map] [media] [my records]
- Meratus Blue Flycatcher Cyornis kadayangensis [map] [media] [my records]
- Ruvu Weaver Ploceus holoxanthus [map] [media] [my records]
- Inti Tanager Heliothraupis oneilli [map] [media] [my records]
The ‘Kill Bill Tanager’ finally gets a name
Every day, new and fascinating discoveries are made by birders and ornithologists alike. Many new species emerge after years of detective work, examining museum specimens, genetic data, and audio recordings. Other times, all it takes to discover a new species is to be in the right place at the right time. In late 2000, American ornithologists Daniel Lane and Gary Rosenberg were leading a tour group through the hillsides of southeastern Peru when they encountered an unfamiliar bird. Its warbling song and striking yellow-and-black plumage were unlike anything they’d ever seen. But before they could take more than a few hasty notes, the bird was gone again.
Over the decade that followed, the so-called ‘Kill Bill Tanager’—nicknamed because its distinctive colors resemble Uma Thurman’s jumpsuit in the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Volume One—remained something of a legend. Sporadic reports continued, one in 2003 and another in 2011 from a different site, 200 miles away. The discovery of the second site finally opened the door to a more comprehensive study of this enigmatic species. Researchers found that this species is migratory—unusual among tropical tanagers—and is so genetically distinct that it deserves its own genus: Heliothraupis.
Thus, the species that had previously been known in eBird as ‘San Pedro Tanager (undescribed form)’ now has an official name: Inti Tanager. “Inti” is an ancient Indigenous word for the sun, a befitting name for this brightly colored bird. “In my opinion, Inti Tanager is a great example of an innovative name selected in an intentional and thoughtful manner,” says eBird Project Leader Marshall Iliff. The naming process “involved the local indigenous community and picked a name that’s as distinctive and unique as the bird itself.” Read the scientific publication describing Inti Tanager.
Introducing Ruvu Weaver (again)
Sometimes a new species is “hiding” in plain sight, waiting for someone to take a closer look. Such is the case of the Ruvu Weaver, a lemony yellow bird restricted to a small number of river valleys in coastal Tanzania. Early German explorers first described this species in the late 1800s based on specimens collected along the Kingani (now Ruvu) River. However, a close resemblance to African Golden-Weaver led subsequent ornithologists to mistakenly conclude the two species were synonymous, and the Ruvu Weaver was almost entirely forgotten.
Fortunately, keen-eyed university researchers noticed a growing number of photographs showing a weaver that was similar to, but not identical to, African Golden-Weaver. Once people picked up on the differences between the two weavers, they began to notice subtle differences in nest location and structure, which has been so important for differentiation of Ploceidae and gives them their common name: weavers.
Through a combination of field observations, photographs, and genetic analysis, they were able to correct the history books and reinstate Ruvu Weaver as its own distinct species. In fact—despite their nearly identical appearance—genetic analysis showed that Ruvu Weaver is not even closely related to African Golden-Weaver! “Very few of us have seen or ever will see Ruvu Weaver,” says Cornell Lab avian taxonomist Tom Schulenberg. “But this example is a good reminder to pay close attention at all times!”
This also emphasizes the potential importance of archiving your bird photos and sound recordings in repositories such as the Macaulay Library. Who knows what other species are waiting to be discovered (or rediscovered) in your birding media?
More about domestics
As mentioned above, there are some ongoing changes related to how eBird handles domestic taxa. “Domestic type” refers to free-roaming, non-captive birds whose physical appearance differs from their wild counterparts as a result of human domestication (learn more about domestic birds in eBird).
Birds matching a domestic form should always be reported as “Domestic type”. Even though domestic-types are linked to a “parent” species, they do not count as an observation of the parent species and appear separately on regional summaries. This is a bit different than how we handle subspecies, which can be reported as either the subspecies group or the “parent” species and count the same on your Life List either way.
While domestic-types are not considered a subset of the wild population, we will start treating them in a way that allows them to be summarized with other observations of their parent species in some contexts. For example, Domestic taxa will appear alongside wild-type reports on your life observations of a single species in My eBird (try Mallard, Red Junglefowl, or Swan Goose to see this in action).
eBird’s new Exotic Categories will help keep track of when these count on life lists and when they don’t. These changes represent a new philosophy on how human-introduced populations are handled within the eBird database.
Most changes won’t be too noticeable, but the beloved Muscovy Duck (Established Feral) has disappeared. All records that formerly pertained to “established feral” will be treated as Muscovy Duck (Domestic type) going forward, with exotic tags to indicate where this species has become Naturalized. This is more in line with how we have treated Rock Pigeon in the past.
When one species gets split into two or more “child” species, we do our best to update records to reflect whichever “child” species occurs in that region. However, where newly split species overlap in range, and do not have clear seasonal or habitat differences, you may see a ‘slash’ or ‘sp.’ taxa on your checklist instead.
After the taxonomy update is complete, please carefully review the ‘splits’ below, check your personal records and update them if you think we made an error. But be cautious! Plumage similarities and overlapping ranges can make species-level identification difficult. eBird provides ‘slash’ and ‘spuh’ options—including for many split and lumped species listed below—for conservative reporting situations where you’re unsure which species you observed.
Below are a few notable examples of the 118 species gained this year by ‘splitting’ one species into two or more different species. For a complete list check out the 2022 eBird Taxonomic Update page.
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna is split into:
- Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna [map] [media] [my records]
- Chihuahuan Meadowlark Sturnella lilianae [map] [media] [my records]
The ‘split’ of Chihuahuan Meadowlark from Eastern Meadowlark will affect the most Life Lists in North America. Found in the Southwestern US and central Mexico, the Chihuahuan Meadowlark is distinguished by a paler body and plainer face with more white in the tail than Eastern and Western Meadowlarks.
The Chihuahuan Meadowlark is a prime example of how a long-recognized, well-known subspecies may be granted species status after stronger data showing physical, genetic, and/or vocal differences become available. In addition to its unique song, “the genetic data show that Eastern Meadowlark and this new meadowlark … are actually not each other’s closest relatives,” said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Terry Chesser, who is the North American Classification Committee chair. “Eastern and Western Meadowlarks are more closely related to each other than to the newly split Chihuahuan Meadowlarks.” (Read more about the Chihuahuan Meadowlark)
The name ‘Chihuahuan Meadowlark’ reflects the overlap between a large portion of the species’ range and the Chihuahuan Desert. The name was ratified by the AOS-NACC after soliciting input from hundreds of active birders, including eBird regional partners and reviewers. We hope future name revisions involve similar rounds of feedback from the broader community to promote a more thoughtful, creative, and inclusive process.
Reporting note: Eastern and Chihuahuan Meadowlarks may occur near one another, or even in the same areas, especially in southern Mexico. They can be difficult to separate (especially when not in adult male breeding plumage). We provide a “slash” option (‘Eastern/Chihuahuan Meadowlark’) for reporting records of uncertain identity. For records that could involve Western, Eastern, or Chihuahuan Meadowlark, look for ‘Sturnella meadowlark sp.’ as an option.
Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus is split into:
- Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus [map] [media] [my records]
- Green Pheasant Phasianus versicolor [map] [media] [my records]
Both species have been introduced widely. Green Pheasant is native to Japan, is treated as Provisional in Hawaii-US, and may also appear as an Escapee in some regions. Ring-necked Pheasant has been introduced widely and is Naturalized in many areas, including much of the northern United States, southern Canada, western Europe, and even parts of Japan (e.g., Hokkaido, Okinawa) near to islands where Green Pheasant is native. This split recognizes that these species rarely hybridize where they co-occur, as well as the obvious plumage and size differences (Green Pheasant is much smaller).
Beware! A domestic-type melanistic form of Ring-necked Pheasant can be confusingly similar to Green Pheasant. Check for the pale gray upperwing panel and golden scapulars in Green Pheasant, since melanistic Ring-necked Pheasants do not have significant contrast on the upperparts.
Females and immature birds may be hard to differentiate, so we retain this option for individuals of uncertain identity.
And they also may hybridize on occasion, so we also offer an option for hybrids (see full 2022 Taxonomy).
A male Green Pheasant (left) compared to a male melanistic Ring-necked Pheasant (right). Note the pale grey/blue wing patch and golden brown scapulars on the Green Pheasant vs. the overall dark green wings of the melanistic Ring-necked Pheasant.
Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus is split into:
- Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus [map] [media] [my records]
- Cuban Kite Chondrohierax wilsonii [map] [media] [my records]
Recognizing a new species isn’t just about changing the name or adding a new lifer; full species status can have significant impacts for conservation as well. The total population of the critically endangered Cuban Kite is restricted to eastern Cuba, where access is difficult and birders are few, and is currently fewer than 250 mature birds. Threatened by habitat loss, reductions in food availability, and human persecution, some fear the species may already be extinct (the last confirmed report was 2010). With its reclassification, Cuban Kite becomes one of the rarest birds in eBird—we have just one confirmed record entered so far—and will hopefully qualify for additional conservation protections.
Greater Antillean Nightjar Antrostomus cubanensis is split into:
- Cuban Nightjar Antrostomus cubanensis [map] [media] [my records]
- Hispaniolan Nightjar Antrostomus ekmani [map] [media] [my records]
This split is primarily based on differences in song, which is obviously important for species recognition in nightbirds like nightjars and owls. The Hispaniolan Nightjar’s song is a “click” followed by a 2-syllable phrase which is thought to give rise to their local common name, “Pitanguá”. The Cuban Nightjar, colloquially referred to as “Guabairo”, has a longer, drawn-out song sometimes described as “gua bai ah ro”. Listen to the differences in the two songs below—do you hear each bird saying its local name? Learn more about how sound sleuthing, the study of bird vocalizations, is being used to identify new species.
Antillean Mango Anthracothorax dominicus is split into:
- Hispaniolan Mango Anthracothorax dominicus [map] [media] [my records]
- Puerto Rican Mango Anthracothorax aurulentus [map] [media] [my records]
Arguably long overdue, the sexes of both species exhibit differences in size and coloration and populations do not overlap. Hispaniolan Mango is larger; males have primarily black underparts while females are pure white underneath with a purplish base to the tail. Puerto Rican Mango is smaller, with black restricted to the chest in males and females having a brownish-gray outer tail. As the taxonomy of birds in the Caribbean gets ever more refined, the list of endemics for the region grows, highlighting our need to protect native habitats there. These mangos don’t add any national endemics though: Puerto Rican Mango occurs on the Virgin Islands, though it has declined there significantly, and most Hispaniolan species are of course shared between two nations: the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis is split into:
- African Green Bee-eater Merops viridissimus [map] [media] [my records]
- Arabian Green Bee-eater Merops cyanophrys [map] [media] [my records]
- Asian Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis [map] [media] [my records]
Is there any bird cooler than a bee-eater? For starters, they actually eat bees! But they are also wonderfully social, sometimes highly migratory, show amazing variation, and are undeniably beautiful. Green Bee-eater until now has been treated as one of the more widespread species, and was previously thought to be quite variable—individuals in Africa are primarily green, while individuals in Asia have green foreheads and blue throats, and Middle Eastern birds’ foreheads and throats are both blue. This revision recognizes their within-species variability is actually species-level divergence.
Salvin’s Prion Pachyptila salvini is split into:
- Salvin’s Prion Pachyptila salvini [map] [media] [my records]
- MacGillivray’s Prion Pachyptila macgillivrayi [map] [media] [my records]
Prions are almost impossible to identify at sea. However, like other tubenoses, they diverge from one another in breeding locations, phenology, pelagic foraging strategies, and other aspects of their biology that are difficult for landlubber birders and scientists to observe well. Fortunately, modern genetic techniques are revealing evolutionary histories where our observational data may be lacking. A recent paper by Masello et al. investigated a mysterious new prion found on Gough Island in the Southern Atlantic (which formerly was available in eBird as “Gough Prion (undescribed form)”).
Researchers discovered that it was not a new species, but rather a new population of MacGillivray’s Prion, a Critically Endangered species of the southern Indian Ocean. This represents a great new conservation opportunity, since ongoing conservation efforts on Île Saint-Paul can now be supplemented by protection of the birds on Gough. For a deep dive into this revelation, check out the full publication.
Crested Shrike-tit Falcunculus frontatus is split into:
- Eastern Shrike-tit Falcunculus frontatus [map] [media] [my records]
- Western Shrike-tit Falcunculus leucogaster [map] [media] [my records]
- Northern Shrike-tit Falcunculus whitei [map] [media] [my records]
Australian birders now have the opportunity of finding multiple species in the genus Falcunculus for their Life Lists. All three Shrike-tits are genetically distinct and the only members of the family Falcunculidae, named for their unique falcon-like curved bills which they use to strip bark from trees in order to reveal insect prey. This split recognizes differences in plumage between the three populations: Northern Shrike-tits have bright yellow backs, Eastern individuals show dark olive backs, and Western Shrike-tits are mainly white underneath.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe is split into:
- Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe [map] [media] [my records]
- Atlas Wheatear Oenanthe seebohmi [map] [media] [my records]
Northern Wheatear is one of the most migratory birds on the planet, with the entire Alaska population thought to migrate all the way to sub-Saharan Africa, a journey of some 15,000km, while the easterm Canada population crosses 3500km of open ocean en route to its western Africa wintering grounds. The Atlas Wheatear population in northern Africa stands out as a fairly short-distance migrant, moving from breeding areas centered on the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to the Sahel of western Africa for the winter. Adult males are distinctive in breeding-plumage, with an extensive black bib that leads to one of their alternate names: Black-throated Wheatear. In winter plumage, identification can be a real challenge—which is not uncommon for winter-plumaged wheatear (lots of ID challenges within that genus)!
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala is split into:
- Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala [map] [media] [my records]
- Masked Bunting Emberiza personata [map] [media] [my records]
Black-faced Bunting is widespread in mainland East Asia, while Masked Bunting is restricted to easternmost Asia, occurring mostly in Japan but breeding to the s. Sakhalin Peninsula of Russia and wintering, rarely, to Taiwan. Habitats get wetter and lusher as one moves east in East Asia and the plumages, behaviors, and life history of birds reflects this. In these buntings, westerly Black-faced Bunting populations (breeding in w. Mongolia, for example) tend to have mostly grayish and whitish tones, while more easterly breeders on the n. Sakhalin Peninsula can be quite yellowish and richer toned above. Eastern Black-faced Buntings can be virtually indistinguishable from Masked Bunting, which is quite yellow bellow in female and immature plumages. When identifying, watch for the thicker and less crisp streaking on the underparts and especially the flanks of Masked Buntings. A thorough treatment of the identification of these two similar species is badly needed, especially now that they have been split!
With identification challenges such a serious concern, we obviously offer the slash option and encourage its use whenever there is any doubt:
Below are a few notable examples of the species lost this year by ‘lumping’ species that were formerly considered to be separate. For a complete list check out the 2022 eBird Taxonomic Update page.
The remaining species the genus Megapodius are also being renamed from ‘scrubfowl’ to the more commonly accepted group name ‘megapode’ (e.g., Vanuatu Megapode, Orange-footed Megapode). See full 2022 Taxonomy for a complete list of common name revisions.
Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus and African Reed Warbler Acrocephalus baeticatus have very similar morphologies and songs, do not differ in habitat choice, and exhibit only shallow genetic divergence, and are hereby lumped as Common Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus [map] [media] [my records].
This lump will probably be welcomed by birders in Iberia and southern France, since recent genetic work showed that breeding birds there—which look identical to mainland Eurasian Reed Warblers and have only subtle vocal differences—were more closely related to the African population. This resulted in a taxonomic shift a few years ago that had Eurasian Reed Warblers wintering within the breeding range African Reed Warblers and both species overlapping in Iberia during migration. Harder yet, most birds couldn’t be identified to species without in-hand measurements. With this lump, it is again safe to call either warbler a Common Reed Warbler!
A subspecies shuffle to take note of
Impactful taxonomic changes are not just limited to splits and lumps: the below revision removes a species from the Panama (and North American) list, adds one to the Peruvian (and the South American) list, and changes the species for Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador.
The Golden-bellied Flycatcher (Myiodynastes hemichrysus) was previously thought to be restricted to Middle America, where there is a bright form in the highlands of eastern Costa Rica and western Panama. Another species in the genus, Golden-crowned Flycatcher (Myiodynastes chrysocephalus), was somewhat duller with olive streaking on the breast and had three subspecies:
- minor Taczanowski & Berlepsch, 1885: Extreme east Panama (Darién) and Colombia south to Ecuador
- cinerascens Todd, 1912: Andes of north Colombia and coastal cordillera of north Venezuela
- chrysocephalus von Tschudi, 1844: East slope of Andes of Peru to Bolivia and northwest Argentina
But in the process of a reassessment of species limits in the world’s birds using morphological and vocal criteria (scored using the Tobias criteria) the team from BirdLife International noticed that the subspecies had apparently been misassigned; see their assessment here. Instead, they found striking vocal similarities between Golden-bellied Flycatcher and Golden-crowned subspecies minor and cinerascens, and found that chrysocephalus stood apart vocally. As with many flycatchers (Tyrannidae), voice can be more important than appearance in defining species limits. When the WGAC team looked at this issue, there was unanimous agreement that this historical error should be resolved by reassigning subspecies minor and cinerascens to Golden-bellied Flycatcher, thus making Golden-bellied polytypic (and quite variable in plumage) and rendering Golden-crowned Flycatcher monotypic.
This results in a major range shift, so it may impact the life lists of a lot of birders. If you saw Golden-bellied in Costa Rica and Golden-crowned in Colombia, then you will lose a species, unfortunately. But if you saw Golden-crowned in Bolivia and Ecuador, then you gain one!
The extensive library of vocalizations in Macaulay Library was invaluable in this taxonomic revision–thanks to everyone who has shared recordings of these species and others. Compare the vocalizations yourself. Do you agree?
Here is how the maps looked before the taxonomic update: Golden-bellied was restricted to e. Costa Rica and w. Panama, with Golden-crowned widespread from e. Panama throughout the Andes of South America.
After the update the picture will be very different, with Golden-bellied being more widespread and occurring south to northern Peru, with Golden-crowned only occurring south of the Marañon River of ne. Peru. Check out those maps here: Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher.
Note that this is one of a growing number of decisions that depart from those of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOS-NACC and, especially, AOS-SACC) committees. This is largely because—while representatives from both groups are closely involved and working together—the WGAC process is developing a consensus at a faster pace than the AOS committees, which operate on much longer timetables.
On the horizon
Once we’ve finished updating eBird records with the latest taxonomy, we’ll continue with the next phase of improvements to the display of exotic species in eBird, including Life Lists, Top100, and eBird Mobile. Some of the changes happening during the 2022 Taxonomy Update—such as the introduction of “Domestic type” taxa to Life Lists—are being undertaken to facilitate additional updates later this year. Likewise, the forthcoming ability to view all of your ‘slash’ and ‘sp.’ reports in one place will make checking your records after taxonomic splits much easier. Stay tuned to the eBird homepage for these updates and more!