Every summer, birders anxiously await publication of the “Check-list Supplement” by the American Ornithological Society’s (AOS) Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds (a.k.a. NACC). The supplement details revisions to the NACC’s Check-list of North American Birds. Presented here is a rundown of 2023’s more significant revisions. You can read the supplement itself in Ornithology by clicking here.
Nowadays, it can be assumed that any change in taxonomy is due (at least partly) to analysis of new genetic data, so that is not always mentioned here. As a general policy, the NACC accepts as additions to its Check-list any species the ABA’s Checklist Committee adds to its list. Those changes are not listed here. In instances where new species appear on the Check-list because of a split, the sequence in which they are listed here is the sequence in which they appear on the Check-list. Species marked with a single asterisk (*) below are those which do not appear on the ABA Checklist. Those which do not appear on AOS’s North American Check-list are marked with double asterisks (**). Extinct species are marked with daggers (†).
This year, changes within the ABA Area are remarkably few. The most noteworthy are the resurrection of Western Flycatcher and the split of Northern Goshawk. In addition, Common House-Martin was split, and Crimson-collared Grosbeak changed genera.
Further south, in Middle America and the West Indies, Cuban Nightjar, Puerto Rican Nightjar, Velvety Manakin, Cubam Palm-Crow, Hispaniolan Palm-Crow, Hispaniolan Euphonia, Puerto Rican Euphonia, Lesser Antillean Euphonia, and Grand Cayman Bullfinch newly appear on the Check-list. North American populations of Golden-crowned Flycatcher are now considered part of Golden-bellied Flycatcher, and there are new scientific names for Tiny Hawk, Zapata Rail, Colombian Crake, Paint-billed Crake, Ocellated Crake, and Thicket Antpitta.
Re-lump of Western Flycatcher
Finally, our long continental nightmare is over! The two identical “species” which dare not speak their names are once again called Western Flycatcher. For details on why this lump happened—and why the split should never have happened in the first place—see Alec Hopping’s article in Vol. 72, No. 3 of North American Birds. This article was, in part, responsible for the lump. Great work, Alec!
Split of Northern Goshawk
Eurasian Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis)
American Goshawk (Accipiter atricapillus)
This split reverses a lump from 1957. As it turns out, Eurasian Goshawk is more closely related to a number of other Old World species than it is to American Goshawk. This adds a species to the ABA Checklist, as Eurasian Goshawk is a vagrant in North America with one record form Labrador and three from Alaska.
Split of Common House-Martin
Western House-Martin (Delichon urbicum)
Siberian House-Martin (Delichon lagopodum)
The only ABA-Area record of Western House-Martin is from St.-Pierre-et-Miquelon. I believe that makes it the only species for which the French islands hold the solitary record(s) for the ABA Area. There are additional records from Greenland, Bermuda, Guadeloupe, and Barbados, so birders along the Atlantic seaboard—especially Newfoundland—should be on the lookout. Western House-Martin breeds from Europe east to NW China and Mongolia. East of there it is replaced by Siberian House-Martin, so unsurprisingly it is that species which is represented by myriad Alaskan records, most of which come from Bering Sea Islands.
The genus has been absorbed into Periporphyrus, which means that Crimson-collared Grosbeak has changed from Rhodothraupis celaeno to Periporphyrus celaeno. The other species in genus, Red-and-black Grosbeak (Periporphyrus erythromelas) of northeastern South America, is strikingly similar in its pattern of sexual dimorphism.
New Sequence for Psittacara parakeets
Puerto Rican Parakeet*
Changes below do not affect the ABA Area, and asterisks are no longer used to denote species not on the ABA Checklist.
Split of Greater Antillean Nightjar
Cuban Nightjar (Antrostomus cubanensis)
Hispaniolan Nightjar (Antrostomus eckmani)
These two cryptic species, whose names nicely describe their distributions, were separated based on differences in vocalizations. The song of Hispaniolan Nightjar is noticeably more complex.
Split of Blue-crowned Manakin
Velvety Manakin (Lepidothrix velutina)
Blue-capped Manakin (Lepidothrix coronata)**
Velvety Manakin, which has a Chocó-type distribution, has been split from Blue-capped Manakin of the Amazon basin. There are subtle differences in the patterning of color on the adult male’s head.
Split of Tawny-throated Leaftosser
Tawny-throated Leaftosser (Sclerurus mexicanus)
South American Leaftosser (Sclerurus obscurior)**
Tawny-throated Leaftosser (sensu stricto) is now endemic to North America, from central Mexico to eastern Panama; note that eBird/Clements calls it Middle American Leaftosser. South American Leaftosser is endemic to South America. The two daughter species look very much alike but do not come into contact and have different songs.
Split of Palm Crow
Cuban Palm-Crow (Corvus minutus)
Hispaniolan Palm-Crow (Corvus palmarum)
Like the leaftossers, these two look alike but are allopatric in distribution and sound different.
Split of Antillean Euphonia
Hispaniolan Euphonia (Chlorophonia musica)
Puerto Rican Euphonia (Chlorophonia sclateri)
Lesser Antillean Euphonia (Chlorophonia flavifrons)
The males of these three allopatric species differ in the amount of bright yellow and orange coloration below shown by males. In particular, male Lesser Antillean Euphonias mainly lack it and more resembles females, which are largely similar-looking across all three species.
Split of Carmiol’s Tanager
Carmiol’s Tanager (Chlorothraupis carmioli)
Yellow-lored Tanager (Chlorothraupis frenata)**
Carmiol’s Tanager (sensu stricto) is now found from Honduras to northwestern Colombia. Yellow-lored Tanager is found in the Andes from southern Colombia to Bolivia. It’s worth noting that neither is a tanager. Rather, they are understory cardinalids thought to be allied to the ant-tanagers.
Split of Blue Seedeater
Blue Seedeater (Amaurospiza concolor)
Ecuadorian Seedeater (Amaurospiza aequatorialis)
Blue Seedeater now a North American endemic and ranges from southern Mexico to central Panama. Ecuadorian Seedeater is found in the Andes from far southern Colombia to northwestern Peru. It’s worth nothing that these bamboo-loving “seedeaters” aren’t tanagers, like the seedeaters of the genus Sporophila (e.g., Morelet’s Seedeater). Rather, they are cardinalids and related to Blue Bunting and Blue-black Grosbeak. Also worth noting is that the distinctive-looking “Slate-blue” Seedeater (relicta) of southwestern Mexico was not split from Blue Seedeater.
Split of Cuban Bullfinch
Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra)
Grand Cayman Bullfinch (Melopyrrha taylori)
The names of these two look-alike species now nicely describe their ranges.
Golden-bellied Flycatcher Is No Longer a North American Endemic
Two subspecies (minor and cinerascens**) were transferred from Golden-crowned Flycatcher to Golden-bellied Flycatcher. As a result, Panama and North American lose a species, as minor is found in the Darién region of Panama. Golden-bellied Flycatcher now ranges from Costa Rica to extreme northern Peru and Venezuela. Golden-crowned Flycatcher is now a South American endemic and found in the Andes from Peru to extreme northern Argentina.
New Genera and Sequence for Crakes
Zapata Rail (Cyanolimnas cerverai ➛ Mustelirallus cerverai)
Colombian Crake (Neocrex colombiana ➛ Mustelirallus colombianus)
Paint-billed Crake (Neocrex erythrops ➛ Mustelirallus erythrops)
Ocellated Crake (Micropygia schomburgkii ➛ Rufirallus schomburgkii)
There is at least one record of Colombian Crake from Panama.
A new genus has been formed for the aptly named Tiny Hawk and the Semicollared Hawk** of South America. Tiny Hawk changes from Accipiter superciliosus to Microspizias superciliosus.
New Genus for Thicket Antpitta
Hylopezus dives ➛ Myrmothera dives
New Sequence for Antpittas
New Sequence for Some Cardinalids
Name Change for Topaz-Jacobin Subfamily of Hummingbirds
Topazinae ➛ Florisuginae