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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

North American subspecies (1 Viewer)

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I have known serious birders and listers who wanted a "club 600" which includes all field identifiable forms. This was not driven by wanting more ticks but by wanting all birders to help with getting ranges of the different forms right, and thereby allowing us better insight into which forms should be studied in context of taxonomy etc, and insight into where those studies could be performed with the most informative outcome.

Niels
 

Richard Klim

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Interest in subspecific taxonomy seems to be undergoing something of a renaissance in N America:

 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I feel different reasons exist for the emphasis on subspecies.

One...birders perhaps are more suavy on getting up to date info on field recognizable forms, which might someday be split. And other birders want additional challenges in Field ID. This I think translates into the increased info available in Clements and IOC.

Checklist committees that embrace a BSC approach HAVE to acknowledge subspecies. If subspecies are not revised than it provides more ammo for the PSC folks. After all you can say that subspecies are just PSC species when there is no rigor applied to them. Add in that molecular and morphometric approaches have provided substanstial more rigor than in the olden days, and it makes sense that committees might want to pick this material up.

In regards to field guides, it's mostly I think a need to stay competitive as well as make your field guide relevant more than a year after it is published.

On a perhaps unrelated note, but given the current coverage in Sibley and Nat Geo, probably the biggest failure of the new Crossley guide is it's rather superficial coverage of subspecies. Given the size of the book, it is kind of depressing how little useful coverage there is in this volume.
 

Richard Klim

-------------------------
Is there a reason why the group of the Pacific Bewick’s Wren is Thryomanes bewickii drymoecus ?
Why not T. b. spilurus instead (earlier date: 1839 against 1898) ?
There are several other similar examples in the list. As with Cornell (eBird, Clements), the subspecies groups are not necessarily named after the senior member...
 
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Hello all, First, let me say thanks for all of the work that goes into this forum. I've been visiting off and on for a few months and have enjoyed the discussions and the references that you all dig up. Now I'm finally joining in to say that, and specifically to respond to the question about naming subspecies groups.

I would be very happy to know of any corrections that you find along these lines. In my "defense", there are several reasons why subspecies groups are not always named for the senior member:
- I wanted to get the list posted and it was too much work
- some groups are very poorly-defined and it would be difficult to sort out the named subspecies, assign them all to groups, and then name the groups for the senior member (which could hypothetically lead to unstable group names if an old name belongs to a subspecies that is intermediate)
- some "groups" on my list are just the margins of the species' range, so I would have to name a group for a subspecies that has no chance of occurring in North America
- too much work

As I type this I'm thinking I could drop the "group" label and instead just name a subspecies that is representative or typical of each population that I've defined, calling it "for example, subspecies x" instead of "subspecies x group".

I'm open to suggestions and corrections on any of it. Thanks!
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
Hi David and a warm welcome to you from the entire staff here at BirdForum :t:

It's an honor to have you on board ;)
 

MJB

Well-known member
David,
I second the warm welcome extended to you on this forum! I'm very glad to see that you are tackling the subspecies and subspecies 'groups' in your part of the world. I think your 'defense' is well put; the formal application of priority can follow if necessary because your reasons are up-front.

I would, however, plead with you to continue using the word 'group', because it is a clear concept that will cover most cases; also, there are many birders out there (including many members on this forum) for whom English is not their first language, but since the word 'group' has cognates in many other languages eg 'grupo', 'gruppe' and so on, that means the concept crosses linguistic boundaries easily.
MJB
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Hello David, I am sure I can speak for everyone else when I say we are honored to have you post here.

This is an excellent list, but if it is okay, can I make a few suggestions for common names for groups, based on the most names I have most commonly seen applied to them?

Mexican Mallard > Mexican Duck

Siberian White-winged Scoter > Stejneger's Scoter

Pacific Brown Booby > Brewster's Booby (There is another subspecies in the western Pacific that AFAIK looks much more similar to the Atlantic subspecies than the Baja form)

Cattle Egrets > Eastern and Western, instead of Asian and African

Bar-tailed Godwits > Western and Eastern, instead of European and Asian

Northern Xantus's Murrelet > Scripps's Murrelet
 

mb1848

Well-known member
Why not T. b. spilurus instead (earlier date: 1839 against 1898) ?
Because. This is Thryomanes bewickii spilurus (not Troglodytes spilurus Viigors) Bailey Florence M., Handb. Birds W. U. S., 1902, 446, part (Santa Cruz I.). Or T. bewicki spilurus (not Troglodytes spilurus Vigors) Belding, Proc. U. S. Nat. Mus., v, 1883, 528 (San Quentin Bay, Lower California). ????? I am confused!

I think there is a big difference between the audience of Mr. Sibley, ie a large audience and a world list used by world listers. I think it is fine for Mr. Sibley to not use the Code if it would lead to confusion by new birders or low-data-capable birders.
 
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Richard Klim

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Group names

David,

As others have said, good to have your participation. I'm a great fan of your field guides and a keen follower of your excellent blog.

But when it comes to naming subspecies groups (possibly even potential species), I think it's unfortunate that in recent years various North American authorities have used scientific names rather casually, without regard to nomenclatural priority. I realise that your focus is identification rather than taxonomy and nomenclature, and in some cases you've (understandably) followed Cornell's names.

The list includes at least the following groups which don't seem to be named after the senior member (although I may have misinterpreted the intended scope of the group in some cases):

  • Anser albifrons frontalis 1858 – A a gambeli/gambelli 1852
  • Grus canadensis tabida 1925 – G c pratensis 1794
  • Calidris alpina hudsonia 1953 & C a arctica 1922 – where does, eg, pacifica 1861 belong?
  • Chaetura vauxi tamaulipensis 1941 – C v richmondi 1910
  • Melanerpes formicivorus angustifrons 1870 – M f formicivorus 1827
  • Vireo bellii arizonae 1903 – V b pusillus 1866
  • Cyanocitta stelleri macrolopha 1854 – C s diademata 1850
  • Aphelocoma ultramarina arizonae 1874 – A u wollweberi 1854
  • Eremophila alpestris arcticola 1902 – E a leucolaema 1874
  • Progne subis arboricola 1968 – P s hesperia 1889
  • Poecile rufescens barlowi 1900 – P r neglectus 1879
  • Psaltriparus minimus plumbeus 1854 – P m melanotis 1844 [the senior valid geographical ssp if black-eared group not recognised]
  • Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus anthonyi 1902 – C b brunneicapillus 1835
  • Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus sandiegensis 1986 – C b affinis 1859
  • Thryomanes bewickii eremophilus 1898 – T b mexicanus 1830
  • Thryomanes bewickii drymoecus 1898 – T b spilurus 1839
  • Cistothorus palustris plesius 1897 – C p paludicola 1864
  • Polioptila caerulea amoenissima 1926 – P c obscura 1883
  • Sialia sialis fulva 1885 – S s guatemalae 1882
  • Geothlypis trichas sinuosa 1901 – G t arizela 1899
  • Wilsonia pusilla chryseola 1902 – W p pileolata 1811
  • Aimophila ruficeps scottii 1888 – A r eremoeca 1882 – A r boucardi 1867 ?
  • Passerculus sandwichensis beldingi 1885 – P s guttatus 1867
  • Melospiza melodia maxima 1951 – M m sanaka 1901
  • Melospiza melodia morphna 1899 – M m rufina 1850
  • Melospiza melodia samuelis 1858 – M m gouldii 1858 – M m heermanni 1858 ???
  • Melospiza melodia saltonis 1909 – M m fallax 1854
 
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Daniel Philippe

Well-known member
American Oystercatcher

It is the first time I see Haematopus palliatus fraseri , the Pacific American Oystercatcher. Is it something different than frazari, the supposed hybrid ?
 

Richard Klim

-------------------------
Hermit Thrush

Typo... These groups have been transposed:

  • Taiga Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus guttatus group (should be faxoni)
  • Pacific Hermit Thrush – Catharus guttatus faxoni group (should be guttatus)
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
Hello all, First, let me say thanks for all of the work that goes into this forum. I've been visiting off and on for a few months and have enjoyed the discussions and the references that you all dig up. Now I'm finally joining in to say that, and specifically to respond to the question about naming subspecies groups.

I would be very happy to know of any corrections that you find along these lines. In my "defense", there are several reasons why subspecies groups are not always named for the senior member:
- I wanted to get the list posted and it was too much work
- some groups are very poorly-defined and it would be difficult to sort out the named subspecies, assign them all to groups, and then name the groups for the senior member (which could hypothetically lead to unstable group names if an old name belongs to a subspecies that is intermediate)
- some "groups" on my list are just the margins of the species' range, so I would have to name a group for a subspecies that has no chance of occurring in North America
- too much work

As I type this I'm thinking I could drop the "group" label and instead just name a subspecies that is representative or typical of each population that I've defined, calling it "for example, subspecies x" instead of "subspecies x group".

I'm open to suggestions and corrections on any of it. Thanks!

Let me be one more person who would like to extend my warm welcome!

I have been thinking about this a couple of days, and in the context of a field guide (as opposed to a taxonomic work) there can be an argument for showing the subspecies that seems most typical of the field identifiable group in question, and somehow it then feels wrong if the name of that subspecies does not appear next to the image. In a context with lots of room for text there could then be a text that the overall group would get a different group name, but the version of the Sibley guide I know (the big one) does not exactly have a lot of text.

Therefore, I would argue that there should be some liberty when we are talking about a field guide!

Niels
 

mb1848

Well-known member
Daniel: "It is the first time I see Haematopus palliatus fraseri , the Pacific American Oystercatcher. Is it something different than frazari, the supposed hybrid ?"


I have seen H. frazari, Brewster the original description Auk 1888. I have also seen H. frasari and frazeri from Elliot, North American Shore Birds. Good emandations?

The dude's name who collected them was Mr. M. Abbott Frazar of Watertown Massachusetts. He collected this bird on Carmen Island Gulf of California . As to whether these birds are a hybrid swarm or ?? I have no guess.
 

Richard Klim

-------------------------
Group names

I have been thinking about this a couple of days, and in the context of a field guide (as opposed to a taxonomic work) there can be an argument for showing the subspecies that seems most typical of the field identifiable group in question, and somehow it then feels wrong if the name of that subspecies does not appear next to the image. In a context with lots of room for text there could then be a text that the overall group would get a different group name, but the version of the Sibley guide I know (the big one) does not exactly have a lot of text.

Therefore, I would argue that there should be some liberty when we are talking about a field guide!
I admit that I've wondered whether I'm being overly defensive - worrying about the informal scientific naming of subspecies groupings after the most characteristic/widespread/well-known member, rather than the most senior member (following the rules of nomenclature).

But I feel that we risk unnecessarily creating a potential minefield for future generations (for no obvious advantage). In particular, it seems that Cornell's casually-applied group names are gaining traction, given the widespread usage of the Clements Checklist (and perhaps could even be endorsed in a future edition of a highly-respected field guide...?). So popular birding literature, bird reports/records, photo captions, etc will inevitably become more and more littered with references to apparently scientifically-named groups which give a completely misleading impression of their geographic scope (ie, technically excluding all more-senior taxa).

It would be a great pity if 100 years hence, students were forced to treat all early-21st century references to subspecific taxonomic groupings with extreme caution, as rules of priority were known to be habitually disregarded by significant authorities during that era!

And yet now (with the wealth of web-based resources) it's so much easier than ever before to identify the senior member of a subspecies grouping for naming purposes. [eg, it should be possible to correct the group names in the entire Clements Checklist in a few days.]

On balance, it's probably preferable to stick to non-scientific (geographic or descriptive) names for subspecies groups rather than nomenclaturally-unsound pseudo-scientific names.
 
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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
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