Friday, September 22, 2006

List tweaks

I just returned from a brief non-birding trip to Kansas, during which I curiously managed to do a fair amount of birding. Funny that. Anyway, I managed to see my first-ever Nashville Warbler, which was life bird #799. On the day I returned, neighbor Nick called and we went in the afternoon down to nearby Union Reservoir to look for recently reported Arctic and Least Terns. We didn't find them, but we did find a few Common Terns, and that too was a lifer me, #800.

And so, while updating my lists, I decided to do a little organizing of my taxonomic life list, where I break down my life sightings by family. I thought it might help if I ordered them as they are listed in the AOU list, where possible. (I realize that the truly kosher thing to do here is to list them in accordance with, say, Sibley-Monroe or some other world checklist, but I don't have such lists handy. All in due time, I'm sure.)

I came to realize that some taxonomic changes have occurred, and these have a bearing on my list. Not only that, I discovered that I had omitted a very commonly seen bird from my life totals - the Western Gull! That's right, perhaps one of the first birds I ever learned to identify never made it into my life totals until this week. Well, that immediately pushed me up to #801.

The Scarlet-rumped Tanager, a bird of the neotropics, was also split not long ago into Passerini's Tanager and Cherrie's Tanager. These new species generally occupy the eastern and western coastal areas in Costa Rica and Panama, and although my current lists record sightings for the bird in and around the Caribbean Slope, I do have very distinct recollections of the bird around Corcovado down along the southwest coast. So there's #802 - 2 new life birds, and I didn't even have to leave my couch!

But alas, not all was good news. While sequencing hummingbirds, I realized that I had mistakenly counted Magnificent Hummingbird twice - once in Costa Rica in 2002, and again this year when I saw it up close down at Beatty's Guest Ranch near Sierra Vista, Arizona. Ooops. Back to #801.

I'm mostly done with the list review, but a few other changes have been made, mostly in the arena of species' renaming, based on new splits. For example:
  • Little Hermit -> Stripe-throated Hermit
  • Crowned Woodnymph -> Violet-crowned Woodnymph
  • Gray-fronted Dove -> Gray-headed Dove
  • Pacific Dove -> West Peruvian Dove
Unlike the aforementioned Tanager case, here I've only seen one of the "new" species that was previously considered a subspecies, so no automatic list bumps.*

Also, the family of Dendrocolaptidae, or Woodcreepers, has been subsumed under Furnariidae, the Ovenbirds. Recent genetic evidence confirms their close association, and the decision has been made to put them all in one family, as opposed to keeping them as subfamilies under one family name. I've also moved a couple European members of Turdidae (Thrushes) to Muscicapidae, in accordance with recent decisions regarding the breakup of the family of Old World Warblers. Namely, these two species were moved from Turdidae to Muscicapidae:
  • Black Redstart
  • European Robin
I may find other changes to make soon as well. I also might have to make notes in my guidebooks too, especially regarding the Neotropic name changes. Guides like Skutch and Stile Costa Rica book still haven't been updated since 1989, and probably won't be for a long time.

* Some of these updates were tricky to make - I was able to find out about the Gray-fronted Dove change from AOU Supplement 46 to their 7th Edition, but the other ones involved consulting the latest info on their South American checklist Committee site, which annotates many of their species lists and name changes. Very informative, albeit time consuming.

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Patrick Belardo said...

If you get the chance, get Avisys. It makes listing so much easier! I enjoyed your story about the Black Hawk too. Sorry you missed it.

Eric said...

I had to make a decision some time ago whether or not to go the software route for listing. Unfortunately, I had also moved away from Microsoft and toward Apple and Mac, which quickly decreased those options. I instead decided to maintain my lists online, via a geocities site.

Yes, it is clunky sometimes, but it seems to work for me. It would be nice to simply enter sightings once and have the program figure out which lists it gets added to, that's for sure. And there is now a program called Wings for Mac OS X, which looks like a nice piece of software. But I don't look forward to re-entering all that data right now...and frankly, every passing day that I see new birds, it will just get harder and harder. Alas. I appreciate the suggestion though.