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Clements Checklist of World Birds – Updated August, 2015

August 16, 2015

The 6th, and final, edition of James Clements The Clements’ Checklist of Birds of the World was published in 2006, by which time it had become the checklist of choice for most North American birders, especially members of the American Birding Association (ABA). Following the death of Jim Clements (former president of Santa Monica Bay Audubon Society, by the way), the responsibility for its maintenance and update was assumed by The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, under whose auspices it has undergone ten updates since then.

Even if you’re not a World Birder (and you know if you are), it is interesting to have a grasp of the variety and classification of the world’s 10,000+ species of birds. The North American bird list – about 900 species seen, many only once, within Canada and mainland U.S.A. (the ABA area) – is only 9% of the world’s total. If you birded steadily for several years, you might expect to see 79 families in the ABA area, about 1/3rd of the total 235 families of birds. It’s interesting to know how “our” birds fit into this larger picture of the world’s avifauna.

The entire checklist is available for free, downloadable in various formats including Excel. Birds are listed in phylogenetic order, starting with Ostrich and ending – 32,000 lines later – with Parasitic Weaver. It includes all currently recognized Orders, Families, Genera, Species and Subspecies. Also included is additional information on species and subspecies that are closely “grouped” to one another.

Click this for a list and discussion of the latest updates (Aug. 2014 – Aug. 2015)

Some highlights of the latest changes:
1. Species – 10473,   Subspecies – 20697,   Groups – 3013, Families – 234 (with 1 additional, extinct, family)
2. Three newly described species, 73 “splits” and 7 “lumps” for net gain of 69 birds
3. Orders now total 39; new are Leptosomiformes (the Cuckoo-Roller of Madagascar, placed between Mousebirds and Trogons) and Bucerotiformes (Hoopoes, Woodhoopoes & Scimitar-bills, Ground-Hornbills, Hornbills – all Old World birds, mostly tropical, now placed between Trogons and Kingfishers & Allies). The Cuckoo-Roller was previously a monotypic family (a family comprised of a single species) classified within Coraciiformes (Kingfishers & Allies). The four Bucerotiformes families were also previously classified within Coraciiformes.
4. The near-local species Bahama Woodstar was split into 2 species.
5. The following Hawaiian species were changed: Apapane – split into 2 species; Nukupuu – split into 3 species, of which one is extinct and the other two probably extinct; Greater Akialoa – split into 3 species, all extinct; Akepa – split into 3 species, of which one is extinct and another probably extinct. A sad commentary on Hawaiian bird life – extinct before anyone knew they were a separate species.

Here’s a recent (the most recent I could find) diagram of the avian tree of life, from PLOS Currents Tree of Life. It gets bigger and more legible if you view it on the blog and click on it. If you go to their website, they have another, more detailed, diagram.

Simplified summary supertree showing order-level relationshipsfrom PLOS Currents Tree of Life

Simplified summary supertree showing order-level relationships
from PLOS Currents Tree of Life

Now you can figure out just exactly where that Five-toed Farragut you saw last week fits in. [Chuck Almdale]

One Comment
  1. Robert Gurfield permalink
    August 16, 2015 7:17 pm

    Very Cool Thanks

    Sent from my iPhone R gurfield



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