Taxonomy update today—9 August

By Team eBird August 7, 2016

California Scrub-Jay, larger and bigger-billed than Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay and with a more prominent blue spur on the breast sides. Photo by Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library.

The annual eBird taxonomy update IS NOW UNDERWAY. The process will continue for at least a couple days (until Wednesday, 10 Aug or Thursday, 11 Aug). We do this once a year to reflect the most recent changes in avian taxonomy: splits, lumps, name changes, and changes in the sequence of the species lists. You may notice some unusual behavior with your lists and other tools (see below), but this is nothing to worry about. The 2016 splits and lumps will be published very soon on this page. We will summarize these changes in an eBird story once the taxonomy update is complete. A more thorough discussion of this year’s changes can be found at the Clements Checklist, where the 2016 updates have been posted.

The most obvious evidence of the update in process is likely to be the My eBird pages. This update does not only involve name changes and changes to the species sequence, but also a number of splits. Each split needs to be carefully considered. If eBird had a subspecies group (e.g., Western Scrub-Jay (Woodhouse’s)) that was relevant to the new split, then those entries will be upgraded from a subspecies group to the new species (e.g., Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay). If you did not specify the subspecies, then we try to assign records based on known range and occurrence patterns. This changing of records to address splits is the longest process and will be occurring fast and furious today and early tomorrow, and some changes may trickle in through the week’s end. We will post here when the process is complete.

As these updates are applied, you might encounter species lists with the same species listed twice, or you might view lists of your records of Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (for example) and see that some of the records have changed names and some have not. For brief periods, you might also see the same record on your list twice. The updates to your personal lists usually take an hour or more for each species.

Other unexpected behavior should likewise be temporary. If you see odd behavior on a data entry checklist, save your work and go back to Manage My Observations a few minutes later to continue data entry.

If you use eBird Mobile, we recommend submitting any “Not submitted” lists in advance of August 9. Don’t worry though, as long as you are running the most recent version of the app, everything will update correctly even if you have “not submitted” lists on the phone. Please make sure to update your app version to the one current in the App Store or Google Play Store.

Stay tuned for the full summary of this year’s update that will be posted soon after the database changes are finished!