Every year in August the bird taxonomy across the world gets updated based on eBird/Clements checklist. Birders in India can heave a sigh of relief as the changes this year for us are minor and less complicated compared to the global taxonomy.
Some of these updates include lumps and splits in species; name changes; addition of spuhs, slashes and so on.
Listed here is a brief summary of the taxonomic changes relevant to Indian birds.
The three whitethroats- the Hume’s Whitethroat Sylvia althaea, the Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula, and the Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca are lumped and moved under Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca.
Those who can differentiate between the three should continue using the following subspecies:
There are also slashes available:
- Lesser Whitethroat (Lesser/Desert) Sylvia curruca curruca/minula
- Lesser Whitethroat (Lesser/Hume’s) Sylvia curruca curruca/althaea
- Lesser Whitethroat (Lesser/Desert/Hume’s) Sylvia curruca curruca/minula/althaea
Similarly, the Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus limnaeetus and Crested Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus are combined and known as Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus limnaeetus
The option of subspecies is available if birders can distinguish between the two
- Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Crested) Nisaetus cirrhatus cirrhatus/ceylanensis
- Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Changeable) Nisaetus cirrhatus [limnaeetus Group]
The Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis has been split into two species.
- Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis distributed throughout most of the Indian subcontinent
- Indochinese (Black-billed Roller) Coracias affinis found in NE India to south central China, north Malay Peninsula, and Indochina
We request birders traveling to West Bengal to be careful while documenting the roller species. If you are unsure please use slash Indian/Indochinese Roller Coracias benghalensis/affinis.
Listed here are some of the species that will be known by new names due to species splits and reshuffling of subspecies group:
- In India, the English name of Oriental White-eye has changed to Indian White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus.
- The Red-tailed Wheatear in India is now known as Persian Wheatear Oenanthe chrysopygia.
- The White-browed Shortwing has been split into multiple species and the birds in India will be called Himalayan Shortwing Brachypteryx cruralis.
Birders will be happy to know that in the current taxonomy update, eBird/ Clement checklist has incorporated some of the common names of Indian birds that we are familiar with.
- Pale-backed Pigeon –> Yellow-eyed Pigeon
- Orange-breasted Pigeon –> Orange-breasted Green-Pigeon
- Thick-billed Pigeon –> Thick-billed Green-Pigeon
- Thick-billed Pigeon (Thick-billed) –> Thick-billed Green-Pigeon (Thick-billed)
- Yellow-footed Pigeon –> Yellow-footed Green-Pigeon
- Pin-tailed Pigeon –> Pin-tailed Green-Pigeon
- Wedge-tailed Pigeon –> Wedge-tailed Green-Pigeon
- Indian Bustard –> Great Indian Bustard
- Crested Sparrowhawk/Besra –> Crested Goshawk/Besra
- Black-breasted Tit –> Rufous-naped Tit
- Black-breasted/Rufous-vented Tit –> Rufous-naped/Rufous-vented Tit
- Pale-rumped Warbler –> Lemon-rumped Warbler
- Pale-rumped/Sichuan Leaf Warbler –> Lemon-rumped/Sichuan Leaf Warbler
- Golden-spectacled Warbler –> Green-crowned Warbler
- Golden-spectacled/Whistler’s Warbler –> Green-crowned/Whistler’s Warbler
- Rufous-vented Prinia –> Rufous-vented Grass Babbler
- Swamp Prinia –> Swamp Grass Babbler
- Wynaad Laughingthrush –> Wayanad Laughingthrush
- Indian Chat –> Brown Rock Chat
- Long-billed Sunbird –> Loten’s Sunbird
- Gould’s Sunbird –> Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird
- Yellow Weaver –> Finn’s Weaver
- Bengal Weaver –> Black-breasted Weaver
- Streaked/Bengal Weaver –> Streaked/Black-breasted Weaver
- Himalayan Accentor –> Altai Accentor
- Chestnut-shouldered Petronia –> Yellow-throated Sparrow
- Chestnut-breasted Bunting –> White-capped Bunting
Note this is not a full listing of possible changes— we will keep adding to it as time permits! For those interested in investigating further, here is a detailed description of the eBird taxonomy.
While birding in India, we advise that you should set your eBird preferences to display both Common and Scientific Names, with common names set to ‘English (India)’ so that eBird uses names most familiar to Indian birders.