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Once again, the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) has released its annual
supplement to the official Check-list of North American Birds, and I thought
Vermont birders might be interested in the changes. The full report  
has just been posted to the AOU website (www.aou.org). Genetics data  
continue to lead to better understanding of how species are related to  
each other, resulting in changes to common and especially scientific  
names. Here are some highlights:

A) Change to common name:

    'Our' "Common Moorhen" has been re-named "Common Gallinule," and  
the scientific name changed to Gallinula galeata. This represents a  
split from the Common Moorhen found in Eurasia. Basis: vocalizations  
and structure of the bill and shield. This continues a trend in recent  
years of splitting related New World and Old World species (you may  
recall last year's splits of Black Scoter and Winter Wren).

B) Changes to scientific names - Eastern species -
    Drastic changes to warbler names (only genus name changes unless noted)

      1) No more genus Dendroica (all species re-named Setophaga)
Genetics data indicate that American Redstart belongs in the same  
genus as the large group of familiar warblers heretofore classified as  
Dendroica. Apparently the redstart was named first scientifically, so  
it gets to keep its genus Setophaga, and all the other species also  
become Setophaga.

      2) No more genus Parula (all species re-named Setophaga)
Northern Parula is also considered closely related to dendroica type  
warblers and joins the Setophaga genus.

      3) No more genus Wilsonia
          i) Hooded Warbler moves to Setophaga
          ii) Wilson's and Canada Warblers move to genus Cardellina

      4) Changes to genus Oporornis
Mourning, Kentucky, and MacGillivray's Warblers are now considered  
more closely related to Common Yellowthroat than Connecticut Warbler  
and so receive the genus name Geothlypis. For Latin gender agreement,  
Kentucky Warbler is now Geothlypis formosa. Connecticut W. remains  
Oporornis (and incidentally is still considered closely related to its  
former generic sisters).

C) Changes further afield

      1) Snowy Plover is now Charadrius nivosus, reflecting a split  
from C. alexandrius, which 'across the pond' is called Kentish Plover.

      2) Mexican Jay (once Gray-breasted Jay) is now Aphelocoma  
wollweberi, reflecting a species split. A. ultramarina refers to a  
form found only in Mexico, now called Transvolcanic Jay.

      3) The form of Yellow-throated Warbler that lives year-round in  
the Bahamas is now considered a full species based on song, structure,  
ecology, and genetic evidence. Name: Bahama Warbler, Setophaga  
flavescens.

D) Higher level taxonomic changes
     We didn't see the major changes to orders and families seen in  
prior years, but there has been some tinkering with species mostly out  
of our region. For example, Northern Wheatear and some relatives have  
been moved out of the thrush family (Turdidae) to the family  
Muscicapidae. Becards and Tityras get their own family, Tityridae. The  
AOU now recognizes Sandgrouse as deserving their own order,  
Pteroclidiformes; the affinities of this small group of unusual birds  
have long been debated.

   -- Scott Schwenk
      University of Vermont