New splits

The AOU has just published their latest checklist update which is always eagerly anticipated for the potential of new life birds through splits and lost life birds through lumps. This time the damage is not too big with just a single split that will affect some US birders. Sage Sparrow has now been split into two species– Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) and Bell’s Sparrow (A. belli). I have never seen either and am looking forward to learning how to tell these two sparrows apart.

Sage Sparrow - Butte County

The sparrow formerly known as Sage Sparrow. Need to look up which species this actually is now! (photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The other split affecting US birders is that the Little Shearwaters which occurs off eastern North America are now their own species– Barolo Shearwater (Puffinis baroli). The other notable change is that a couple shorebird species changed their genus to Calidris joining the peeps and stints. These new additions include Ruff, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Surfbird.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

A new member of team Calidris– Buff-breasted Sandpiper  Calidris subruficoliis (photo by Drew Weber)

More interesting to me are some the the proposals for changes that were rejected. These proposals can sometimes be an indication of splits or lumos that may successfully pass in the future. Rejected splits included Cabot’s Tern Thalasseus acuflavidus from Sandwich Tern, splitting Canada Goose up again, splitting of White-breasted Nuthatch and finally, lumping of the three rosy-finches into American Rosy-Finch (L. tephrocotis).

Sandwich Tern (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Will we someday know this Sandwich Tern as Cabot’s Tern? (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

. Read the full account by Michael Retter at the ABA blog.