New or confusing species names

Recent changes in taxonomy have made life a bit more complicated for us birders in India (and elsewhere), and some familiar species suddenly have new names! Here is a list of name changes for some common species. In making this list, we assume that you have set your eBird preferences to display both Common and Scientific Names, with common names set to ‘English (India)’.

Note this is not a full listing of possible name confusions — we will keep adding to it as time permits! For those interested in investigating further, here is a detailed description of the eBird taxonomy.

Old name New name Why?
Eurasian Thick-knee
Burhinus oedicnemus
  • Indian Thick-knee Burhinus indicus
Older species split; now only indicus occurs in India
Plaintive Cuckoo
Cacomantis passerinus
  • Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus
  • Grey-bellied Cuckoo Cacomantis passerinus
split into passerinus (most of India) and merulinus (NE India)
Greater Coucal
Centropus sinensis
  • Greater Coucal (Greater) Centropus sinensis
  • Greater coucal (Southern) Centropus parroti
split into sinensis (N, NE India) and parroti (Peninsular India).
House Swift
Apus affinis
  • Little Swift Apus affinis
  • House Swift Apus nipalensis
split into affinis (most of India) and nipalensis (Himalayas and NE India)
Eurasian Golden Oriole
Oriolus oriolus
  • Indian Golden Oriole Oriolus kundoo
split into oriolus and kundoo; only kundoo occurs in India
White-throated Fantail
Rhipidura albicollis
  • White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis
  • White-spotted Fantail (Spot-breasted Fantail) Rhipidura albogularis
split into albogularis (C and S India) and albicollis (N, E and NE India)
Great Tit
Parus major
  • Cinereous Tit Parus cinereus
split into several taxa; only cinereus occurs in India
Black-lored Tit
Parus xanthogenys
  • Black-lored Tit Parus xanthogenys
  • Indian Black-lored Tit (Indian Tit) Parus aplonotus
split into xanthogenys (Himalayas) and aplonotus (Peninsular and S India)
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch
Sitta castanea
  • Indian Nuthatch Sitta castanea
  • Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch Sitta cinnamoventris
split into castanea (Peninsular India) and cinnamoventris (Himalayas and NE India)
Eurasian Treecreeper
Certhia familiaris
  • Hodgson’s Treecreeper Certhia hodgsoni
split; only hodgsoni occurs in India
Black Bulbul
Hypsipetes leucocephalus
  • Himalayan Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus
  • Square-tailed Bulbul (Black Bulbul) Hypsipetes ganeesa
split into leucocephalus (Himalayas and NE India) and ganeesa (Western Ghats)
Common Stonechat
Saxicola torquata
  • Common/Stejneger’s Stonechat (Siberian/Stejneger’s Stonechat) Saxicola maurus
torquatus split into many taxa; only maurus occurs in India
Brown Rock Chat
Cercomela fusca
  • Indian Chat Cercomela fusca
renamed, scientific name unchanged
Common Hill Myna
Gracula religiosa
  • Common Hill Myna Gracula religiosa
  • Southern Hill Myna Gracula indica
split into religiosa (C, NE India) and indica (Western Ghats)
Chestnut-tailed Starling
Sturnus malabaricus
  • Chestnut-tailed Starling Sturnia malabarica
  • Malabar Starling Sturnia blythii
split into malabarica (most of India) and blythii (Western Ghats)
Plain Flowerpecker
Dicaeum concolor
  • Nilgiri Flowerpecker Dicaeum concolor
  • Plain Flowerpecker Dicaeum minullum
  • Andaman Flowerpecker Dicaeum virescens
split into concolor (Western Ghats), minullum (NE India) and virescens (Andaman)
Black-headed Munia
Lonchura malacca
  • Tricolored Munia Lonchura malacca
  • Chestnut Munia Lonchura atricapilla
split into malacca (S, C and W India) and atricapilla (N, E and NE India)

For those who have managed to get this far, a note on Rock Pigeons (or, for those used to older names: Blue Rock Pigeons). Most of the Rock Pigeons we see are either derived from domestic pigeon stock, or are hybrids between wild and domestic pigeons. In eBird, these should be reported as “Feral Pigeons”. True “wild-type” Rock Pigeons are probably quite rare, so please be cautious when reporting these on eBird. More on Feral versus Wild-type pigeons in eBird can be found here.

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Jayasankar P
Jayasankar P
7 years ago

Do we have a species similar to red winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) of US. i have seen a pair similar to them, during my visit to Sabarimala – on 18th October 2013. I didn’t have a camera with me then. Neither can i find any photo from India in the net

7 years ago

Dear Jayasankar,

You might want to take a look at this excellent bird guide “The Book of Indian Birds” by Salim Ali. There is a free version available here

but it is worth buying the recent version.
Happy Birding!

Jayasankar P
Jayasankar P
7 years ago
Reply to  Jegan

Thank you verymuch, Jegan. Your write up and resources in Tamil were also much helpful. Am a novice here. I could not find the mentioned bird anywhere so far. So it may the starting point…