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Checklist update: AOU makes no changes to Northern Cardinal and Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting at Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Jekyll Island, Georgia, May 16, 2015, by gman79.
Painted Bunting at Audubon Bird Sanctuary, Jekyll Island, Georgia, May 16, 2015, by gman79.

The American Ornithologists’ Union released the latest supplement (the 56th) to its checklist of North American birds in early July. Among the many interesting changes:

• ŸHerald Petrel was split into two species: one that ranges throughout the South Pacific and has yet to be recorded in the ABA Area, and another that is spotted regularly but rarely off the Atlantic coast. The Atlantic species, which breeds on an island far off the coast of Brazil, was given the name Trindade Petrel.

Ÿ• The two subspecies of Bahama Woodstar were recognized as separate species. We reported online in early February about the proposal to split the hummingbird. The subspecies that lives on Great and Little Inagua will now be known as Inagua Woodstar.

Northern Cardinal, female, by Kim Caruso.
Northern Cardinal by Kim Caruso.

• ŸAnd Psittaculidae, a family containing lories, lovebirds, and Australasian parrots, was broken out of Psittacidae, containing African and New World parrots, to reflect the groups’ different evolutionary histories.

Just as interesting were two proposals that the AOU’s checklist committee considered but chose not to accept.

One would have divided familiar Northern Cardinal into six species, to be called Eastern Cardinal, Western Cardinal, Yucatan Cardinal, Cozumel Cardinal, Tres Marias Cardinal, and Long-crested Cardinal.

The other would have recognized the eastern and western populations of multicolored Painted Bunting as distinct species. Ornithologists have speculated for years that the two groups may be separate, largely because they winter and breed apart and molt and migrate according to different schedules.

We described the proposal to split them in our April issue. In rejecting it, reviewers questioned not only whether the populations were truly isolated reproductively, but also the gap that is said to separate them.


One commenter encouraged other reviewers to look at an eBird map from June and July, suggesting that they would see “a series of records” from Mississippi to western Georgia. “It looks to me as if there are patches of likely breeders throughout the gap in the narrow fingers of bottomlands and along the coast in otherwise hilly, unsuitable terrain,” wrote the committee member. “What population these represent is unknown.”

A version of this article appeared in the October 2015 issue of BirdWatching.

Read the paper

R. Terry Chesser, Richard C. Banks, Kevin J. Burns, Carla Cicero, Jon L. Dunn, Andrew W. Kratter, Irby J. Lovette, Adolfo G. Navarro-Sigüenza, Pamela C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen Jr., James D. Rising, Douglas F. Stotz, and Kevin Winker. 2015. Fifty-sixth Supplement to the American Ornithologists’ Union: Check-list of North American Birds. The Auk: July 2015, Vol. 132, No. 3, pp. 748-764.


A new hummingbird species proposed for the Bahamas.

Why ornithologists proposed splitting Painted Bunting.

See photos of Painted Bunting.


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