OSME Region List ORL

OSME Region List of birds

A consultative document

Semi-collared Flycatcher

Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata - an OSME speciality © Aurélien Audevard

The OSME Region List of Bird Taxa – Version 3.2

The aim of the OSME Region List (ORL) is to provide a definitive list of bird taxa[1] that have been recorded in the OSME Region. This Formal Edition is issued with a version number so that we* can implement amendments from the results of new research and from comments, corrections and suggestions we may receive. The ORL will be the basis of any country-by-country checklist for the OSME Region, a project that is being undertaken separately under the aegis of OSME Council in cooperation with the countries involved. A longer-term aim is to produce the ORL and country checklists in the languages of each country. However, before you examine the ORL for the first time, we suggest that you read its Ornithological basis, and the Explanation of the ORL. The Ornithological basis provides the rationale for the Order, Sequence and Nomenclature adopted in the ORL. For ease of reference, the ORL comprises five sections: Part A is the list of Non-passerines, Part B contains the Non-Passerine References, Part C is the list of Passerines, Part D contains the Passerine References and Part E comprises the Hypothetical list (species that are of unproven occurrence, those that are unlikely to occur and some perhaps that are both). We acknowledge here the help freely given and the interest expressed by so many people from throughout the Region and from the ornithological world – we believe that we have included their names in the Acknowledgements section below, but if you have been omitted, we apologise, and do let us know so that we can update it! A Simplified ORL (SORL) intended for use in routine correspondence and as a reference source of taxa names in non-taxonomic papers is derived from the published version of the ORL. The SORL is available in Excel format from the Listmaster.

*ORL correspondence coordinator; Listmaster, c ⁄ o The Lodge, Sandy, SG 19 2DL UK or via orl 

†Simon Aspinall died in October 2012, after a long illness. We’ll retain his name as an author of the ORL because his contributions form its core. A great naturalist, he was also a good and generous friend.

This is Richard Porter’s last ORL as a Team member, having been with the project since its inception. Richard has been the perfect mentor, encouraging, chiding and praising at precisely the appropriate times – we’ll miss that! Despite his considerable workload, he’s always been to hand. Of course, we’ll still badger him for advice from time to time, as do so many people in the OSME Region, but our appreciation for his shrewd advice is boundless.

We welcome AbdulRahman al-Sirhan to the Team, adding to his already significant contribution to OSME, in particular his creation and management of the OSME website. It’s invaluable that the Team should include Members from the OSME Region and we look forward to working together.

Version 3.2: summary of changes

As expected, there have been numerous taxonomic developments: a number of former Puffinus taxa have been transferred to a restored genus, Ardenna, making most groups monophyletic (Christides & Boles 2008); Purple Swamphen has been split (IOC5.3) pretty well as Garcia & Trewick 2015 had suggested and as ORL3.1 had forecast (from an early draft from Steve Trewick); Following Cohen 2011, we have revised most of the Sandgrouse, enlarging Syrrhaptes at the expense of Pterocles, but Cohen 2011 did not sample all taxa, and so further revision may occur; evidence has been advanced to elevate Cyprus Scops Owl to species rank (Robb & The Sound Approach 2015, Flint et al 2015); Desert Owl Strix hadorami (formerly Hume’s Owl S. butleri) and Omani Owl (now S. butleri but applied to differing geographical population(s)) are now identified, but distributions in part or in toto are uncertain – some recently-found widely-separated individuals in Iran are the latter species (Musavi et al 2016), but birds in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia have yet to be identified (Kirwan et al 2015, Robb et al 2015); there have been minor changes of sequence of genera and within genera.

Miles et al 2015 show that song and morphology allow discrimination of Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia into eastern (straminea) and western (naevia) groups; molecular studies are needed to test this approach. Mason & Taylor 2015 found little or no genetic differentiation between Redpoll Acanthis flammea populations worldwide. Kamp et al 2015 revealed a decline of 94% in Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola populations since 1980. The long-awaited Robins and Chats book (Clement and Rose 2015: 25 years in the making) appeared to much acclaim, providing several insights into OSME Region species, especially distributions, and some taxonomic interest, although the taxonomy in places was dated.

However, two non-taxonomic changes have added species to the ORL. Firstly, the OSME Region, with the agreement of the African Bird Club and the Oriental Bird Club, has extended its deep-ocean area south to 10°S, the result being as shown on the OSME website Home page. ABC and OBC have undertaken to consider where their respective deep-ocean boundaries should be designated, tasks which incorporate the Atlantic, Pacific and East Siberian Arctic Oceans. Initially, the OSME Region deep-ocean boundaries are shown as Great Circle lines or approximations to keep the initial limits simple and straightforward, but once ABC and OBC have formed their own policies, the OSME deep-ocean boundaries may, through joint discussion, be amended in future. We carried out a literature search for older papers referable to OSME Region sea areas, including the extension, and consequently confirmed occurrences that previously had been merely suspected. Furthermore, we visited regularly the BirdLife Seabird Tracking database (http://seabirdtracking.org/mapper/) and the BirdLife Marine IBA Inventory, (an amazingly detailed e-Atlas: http://maps.birdlife.org/marineIBAs/default.html) both, confirming additional species in the overall OSME sea area.

Secondly, many BirdLife Data Zone species distribution maps (http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species) have been revised to show a much more nuanced distribution, especially because the maps incorporate splits BL have adopted via the Tobias et al 2010 (qv) criteria. For example, for high-altitude species, the shaded distribution does not include valleys. One consequence has been confirmation that some species do occur quite widely in eastern Afghanistan – see Orange Bullfinch Pyrrhula aurantiaca http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/factsheet/22720662.

The British Ornithologists’ Union, without any discussion with the members of its Taxonomic Sub-committee, has disbanded it, and will now take time to review the available global taxonomies with a view to adopting one system for all BOU activities. In our opinion, a modicum of joined-up thinking would have seen the BOU task the TSC to use its expertise to evaluate which global taxonomy best suited the BOU’s needs in the context of the validity of the assumption that any global taxonomic system would best suit all the BOUs needs. We consider the BOU’s decision to exclude the taxonomic expertise of the TSC in favour of an unknown level of expertise on which any decision on which taxonomic system the BOU will choose self-evidently to not be best practice. From the statement on the BOU website, it would appear the BOU went about the TSC disbandment for reasons of administrative convenience. As an aside, the final TSC report, Sangster et al 2015, provides critical reasons for the adoption of new (or resurrected) genera, enabling us to evaluate the original proposals for those recommended changes.

Lastly, recent research (Nebel et al 2015) gives the intriguing possibility that Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos may comprise at least two species and possibly more than three, but the data are insufficient for taxonomic conclusions.

References for Version 3.2 Introductory Material
Christidis, L and WE Boles. 2008. Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, VIC, Australia.
Cohen, C. 2011. The phylogenetics, taxonomy and biogeography of African arid zone terrestrial birds: the bustards (Otididae), sandgrouse (Pteroclidae), coursers Glareolidae) and Stone Partridge (Ptilopachus). Thesis. Univ. Cape Town. Clement, P and C Rose. 2015. Robins and Chats. Christopher Helm. London, UK.
Flint, PR, D Whaley, GM Kirwan, M Charalambides, M Schweizer and M Wink. 2015. Reprising the taxonomy of Cyprus Scops Owl Otus (scops) cyprius, a neglected island endemic. Zootaxa 4040(3): 301-316.
Garcia-Ramirez, JC and SA Trewick. 2015. Dispersal and speciation in purple swamphens (Rallidae: Porphyrio). Auk 132: 140-155.
Kamp, J, S Oppel, AA Ananin, YA Durnev, SN Gashev, N Hölzel, AL Mishchenko, J Pessa, SM Smirenski, EG Strelnikov, S Timonen, K Wolanska and S Chan. 2015. Global population collapse in a superabundant migratory bird and illegal trapping in China. Cons. Biol. DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12537
Kirwan, GM, M Schweizer and JL Copete. 2015.  Multiple lines of evidence confirm that Hume’s Owl Strix butleri (A. O. Hume, 1878) is two species, with description of an unnamed species (Aves: Non-Passeriformes: Strigidae). Zootaxa 3904 (1): 028–050.
Mason, NA and SA Taylor. 2015. Differentially expressed genes match bill morphology and plumage despite largely undifferentiated genomes in a Holarctic songbird. Mol. Ecol. doi: 10.1111/mec.13140
Miles, W, D Parnaby, B Rosser, J Moss and JM Collinson. 2015. 'Eastern Grasshopper Warbler' on Fair Isle: new to Britain. Brit. Birds 108: 231-236.
Musavi, SM, A Khani, A Khaleghizadeh and M Robb. 2016. The first confirmed records of Omani Owl Strix butleri (AO Hume, 1878) (Aves: Strigidae) from Iran. Zool ME XX
Nebel, C, A Gamauf, E Haring, G Segelbacher, A Villers and FE Zachos. 2015. Mitochondrial DNA analysis reveals Holarctic homogeneity and a distinct Mediterranean lineage in the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. June 2015: 1-13.
Robb, MS & the Sound Approach. 2015. Undiscovered Owls. The Sound Approach. Poole, UK.
Robb, MS, G Sangster, M Aliabadian, AB van den Berg, M Constantine, M Irestedt, A Khani, SB Musavi, JMG Nunes, MS Willson and AJ Walsh, 2015. The rediscovery of Strix butleri (Hume, 1878) in Oman and Iran, with molecular resolution of the identity of Strix omanensis Robb, van den Berg and Constantine, 2013. bioRix preprint doi: http//dx.doi.org/10.1101/025122
Sangster, G, JM Collinson, P-A Crochet, GM Kirwan, AG Knox, DT Parkin and SC Votier. 2015. Taxonomic recommendations for Western Palearctic birds: 11th report. Ibis 158: 206-212.

Version 3.1: summary of changes

In Version 3.1, the ORL takes partly into account the information published in 2013 & 2014 in Complete Checklist of Birds of the World, volumes 1 &2, Passerines and Non-passerines, 4th Edition (H&M4:1 & H&M4:2). Much from these comprehensive, scholarly and heavily references volumes has been either omitted from the ORL pro tem or noted as possible changes, because it has yet to be interpreted in context by the IOC World Bird List on which the ORL essentially is based. For example, H&M4 contains many changes to the sequence of bird families, the sequence of genera within families and the sequence of species within genera. Furthermore, it adopts many new scientific names and some splits and lumps yet to be considered by IOC, but omits splits and lumps, some long-standing, already published by IOC. Moreover, it adopts more than a few new English names. The good news is that H&M4 provides a sound ‘audit trail’ of cited references for most of these differences from IOC decisions, allowing academic debate on the merits of the differences from published work: these differences are mostly of degree, and not fundamental disagreements. The ORL will adopt in principle the IOC evaluation of these differences as they are published.

 The publication of H&M4 has allowed the inclusion in the ORL of a much more comprehensive listing of and comment upon the subspecies that occur in the OSME Region. As a corollary, many ORL species have been positively classed as monotypic.

Several species new to the OSME Region have been added. The Strix owls of the Arabian Peninsula and Iran once considered as Hume’s Owl S. butleri appear to comprise two or, just possibly, three species: the most recent paper is Kirwan et al 2015; more are sure to follow. Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis is split in HBW into 3 species, all of which have been recorded in the OSME Region (del Hoyo et al 2014). A number of suspected or likely divergences in passerines have been quantified to varying extents, eg Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (Scordato & Safran 2014), Cetti’s Warbler Cettia cetti (Alström et al 2011), Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius (Zuccon & Ericsson 2010), Black-throated Accentor Prunella atrogularis (Drovetski et al 2013) & Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta (Garner et al 2015).

References for Version 3.1 Introductory material
Alström, P, S Höhna, M Gelang, PGP Ericson and U Olsson. 2011. Non-monophyly and intricate morphological evolution in the avian family Cettiidae revealed by multi-locus analysis of a taxonomically densely sampled dataset. BioMed Central http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2148/11/352
Drovetski, SV, G Semenov, SS Drovetskaya, IV Fadeev, YA Red’kin and G Voelker. 2013. Geographic mode of speciation in a mountain specialist Avian family endemic to the Palearctic. Ecol. & Evol. 1-11. doi: 10.1002/ece3.539
Garner, M, Y Perlman, Y Kiat and J Martin Collinson. 2015. Water Pipits: three species rather than one? Brit. Birds 108: 42-48.
del Hoyo, J, N Collar and GM Kirwan. 2014. Arabian Green Bee-eater (Merops cyanophrys). In: del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, J Sargatal, D Christie and E de Juana. Eds. Handbook of theBirds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Kirwan, GM, M Schweizer and JL Copete. 2015.  Multiple lines of evidence confirm that Hume’s Owl Strix butleri (A. O. Hume, 1878) is two species, with description of an unnamed species (Aves: Non-Passeriformes: Strigidae). Zootaxa 3904 (1): 028–050.
Scordato, ESC and RJ Safran. 2014. Geographic variation in sexual selection and implications for speciation in the Barn Swallow. Avian Research 5: 8 doi:10.1186/s40657-014-0008-4
Zuccon, D and PGP Ericson. 2010. The Monticola rock-thrushes: phylogeny, and biogeography revisited. Mol. Phyl. Evol. 55: 901-910


 [1] We use the word ‘taxon’ (plural ‘taxa’) rather than ‘species’ or ‘subspecies’ here because there are a number of cases where any definition of a species or subspecies is inadequate to describe the status of populations where a majority of, but not all, individuals can be identified through visual identification, morphology or DNA studies. The subtleties revealed through much modern genetic research indicate that many more taxa than previously thought are in dynamic states of evolutionary stability that defy simple definitions of ‘species’ and ‘subspecies’ (the Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava complex (qv) is a good example). Overlying this problem is that precise knowledge of taxa distribution limits and population numbers and densities is lacking over vast areas of the Region, which leads us to be cautious about even well-argued cases for ‘splitting’ and ‘lumping’. We therefore retain some taxa that we have not elevated to a higher rank and others that we have not ‘lumped’, but we note the cases for doing so.