Recent proposals for specifically distinct bird species

pages Rolf A. de By

Links on the right provide access to pages, one per bird family, which include species for which there have been recent proposals to ‘split’.  Typically, these are forms previously considered to be subspecies, and now proposed to receive the full species status.  The main purpose of this information is to raise awareness amongst birders, not necessarily to tell them what to tick and not tick. [ Though perhaps this could read: "It tells you what I would consider ticking and not." ]

More than in any other area of taxonomic discussion, differences of opinion and in the species concept applied become prevalent here.  I felt it necessary to make some choices of consistency, without which the list of taxa here included might become almost meaningless.   These choices are explicated below.  Nonetheless, there will be many instances of included taxa that just deserve a wider discussion than what is possible here.

The split taxa are presented per family in taxonomic order.  The decision to include a split was made on the basis of the following criteria.

  • The species concept applied is principally that of the Biological Species Concept and not the Phylogenetic Species Concept.  The reason is threefold:
    • Since these pages are on splits worldwide and the PSC is not (yet) applied worldwide, whereas BSC is more so at present, it seemed easier to come up with a consistent list based on the latter than on the former.
    • A wider reader community is hoped to appreciate the list in its current form.
    • Without being able to take a firm position, I  am not fully convinced about the weaknesses of the BSC as put forward by PSC followers.  Reproductive isolation seems to be an intuitively appealing principle to base a species notion on, and the problem of allopatry may, in the long term perhaps, turn out not to be intrinsically unsolvable.

    Discriminating between BSC and PSC splits, however, is not easy as sources do not always unambiguously indicate which species notion is applied.  In some cases mentioned here, I know of, but have not yet read the supporting literature, and my categorisation is then tentative at best.  Species included in the main list, which may turn out to be ‘PSC splits’ (just because I am not fully informed) are tagged with an asterisk.   Also included below is a list of what I believe to be ‘pure’ PSC splits.

  • Inclusion in the list here I have sought to back up by a reference to published scientific data.  Opinions matter but should not be the basis for a split, obviously.  Including just a single reference in many cases is a simplification that may not do justice to a full body of literature.  In a few cases, I thought it wiser to include a reference to a publication with a more overview character, either because identifying a single source was difficult, or  the mentioned publication was considered to be the best access point to other sources.
  • The origins of my information for the splits are region and family handbooks, checklists and published scientific papers, the internet occasionally, as well as personal communications with a number of people.  I intend to make and then keep the list up-to-date, and information from the readership is elementary in the process.

The current list, as of August 25th, 2002, includes 314 splits out of the 545 potential splits for which I have (incomplete) information. 

As ever, additional information on the issue of splits is happily received and acknowledged.  If you do send me new information, I will appreciate an attempt to make it as complete as possible.

I am indebted to many people for sending me updates and corrections.


Rolf A. de By

TallTapa.jpg (17175 bytes)
Tall-grass Wetland Tapaculo
Scytalopus iraiensis, a species de-
scribed from Brazil in 1998.  Art-
work Diana Carneiro Marques.


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