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 4.1

The aim of the OSME Region List (ORL) is to provide a definitive list of bird taxa1 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 provides a basis of any country-by-country checklist for the OSME Regionshould countries wish to liaise with OSME Council to that effect. 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 – see http://osme.org/sites/default/files/SIMPLIFIED_ORL_2016_3.3.1.pdf)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 usually is revised annually. 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 

(ORL Team Founder Members and Co-authors: RICHARD PORTER AND †SIMON ASPINALL)

†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.

The IOC re-sequencing of Non-passerine Orders, planned for late 2017

I was our intention that following ORL 3.4, the next version would be 4.0, incorporating the IOC’s resequencing of non-passerine Orders, which is summarised at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/classification/orders-of-birds-draft-7-1/. Due to numerous recent papers and because two ORL Team members have other priorities over a two-month period, we have decided to identify the version succeeding 3.4 as 4.1 and to incorporate IOC’s much-delayed revision at or around the end of 2017. (The IOC revision of sequences will accommodate a host of conclusions from many taxonomic papers in a way that will leave the fewest possible taxa whose taxonomic status remains unsettled.)

ORL 4.1: summary of changes

The Conservation Status of all taxa in the Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered categories has been inserted in Bold in the Working Notes (Column D).

  • IOC have adopted the changes included in Dickinson & Remsen 2013 which reduce Anas to monophyly by erecting the genera Sibirionatta, Spatula, Mareca and extralimital others; this requires a resequencing of duck genera and species (marked by a light gold shading in Column A of the taxa affected).
  • ORL 3.4 included the Transfer of a number of shearwater species from Puffinus to Ardenna, but omitted to mention that the taxa remaining in Puffinus are now monophyletic: in ORL 4.1 we have inserted Parent Taxon lines to do so.
  • The first White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus for the OSME Region was recorded at Bir Shalatein in Egypt in June 2017.
  • HBW (Alive) concludes that the distribution of taxon saharae of the Little Owl Athene noctua complex stretches discontinuously through Egypt into Central Arabia and treat it separately from taxon glaux. Pro tem, we treat it as A. (n,) saharae in its own entry, under the informal name ‘Kleinschmidt’s Little Owl’.
  • Joseph 2017 shows that falcons and parrots share a common ancestor, thus further justifying the separation of Accipitridae from Falconidae and the sequencing of the latter before Cacatuidae, Psittacidae and Psittaculidae.
  • The AOU accepted the split of Northern Shrike L. borealis (including E Palearctic sibiricus, bianchii, mollis and funereus) from Great Grey Shrike L. excubitor in June 2017: Rasmussen 2017. This formally validates the ORL approach for these taxa: we await with interest to see how the remaining large grey shrike taxa in the Region fare after similar evaluations.
  • BirdLife Datazone (BLDZ) treat Asir Magpie as a full species. Kryukov et al 2017 confirm the taxon’s very long isolation: Alexey Kryukov hopes to obtain feathers for analysis next year with the aid of OSME.
  • The extent of the latest BLDZ map for Groundpecker Pseudopodoces humilis includes sizeable swathes of southeastmost Tajikistan and southernmost Kyrgystan and also the easternmost Wakhan of Afghanistan, a total area of about 2300km², and so consider this taxon no longer merely hypothetically occurring in the Region.
  • Red Sea Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon perdita is known only from a single 1984 specimen from Saneb lighthouse 30km offshore from Port Sudan on the African side of the Red Sea. No other Petrochelidon taxon has ever been recorded close to the Red Sea, the only other in the Region being Streak-throated Swallow P. fluvicola, a vagrant to Oman and the UAE from NE Afghanistan and points east; there has been a recent 2011 vagrant record to Egypt, but the two species are very different in plumage. Interestingly, two successive 1965 reports of a Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon sp (4 birds in all) from a Royal Navy ship sailing the Red Sea have long been in the RNBWS database, but now all old issues of Sea Swallow are on line and fully searchable. Perusing the original source (Sea Swallow 18: 44) reveals that the sightings, c550km apart (assuming 14 knots for 24 hours), were virtually equidistant from the type location of Saneb lighthouse. The more northerly of the sightings occurred in the OSME Region area opposite the Halaib Triangle, and the southerly likely coincides with the southern Red Sea centreline marking the edge of the OSME Region. The first sighting was of three birds, the second sighting being at very close range of a bird that perched on the Captain’s chair in the wheelhouse of the (semi-open) bridge! The observer was familiar with the Nearctic Cliff Swallow P. pyrrhonota (He recorded the species in the New World the previous year), whose plumage resembles that of the P. perdita type specimen, but to our minds, what is the most relevant aspect is that the sightings were confidently assigned as a Petrochelidon species, 19 years before anyone knew that this genus occurred in the Red Sea area. We therefore are minded to accept the RNBWS reports as records of Red Sea Swallow.
  • The latest BLDZ map for Tibetan Blackbird Turdus maximus gives a distribution that includes a significant slice of E and SE Afghanistan, plus southeasternmost Tajikistan, making it highly probable that the taxon (part of a superspecies including Common Blackbird T. merula) occurs in the Region.
  • The sole type specimen of a wheatear taxon was recently reassigned (Shirihai et al 2014) as being a subspecies of Eastern Mourning Wheatear thus: Oenanthe lugens syenitica, the type location being an area of very dark substrate close to Aswan in Egypt. This may be the final decision on its status, bur because this substrate covers an enormous area to the east of Aswan and further south into Sudan, it is entirely possible that there is a thinly widespread population whose taxonomic status is yet to be determined. To keep the issue in view, we suggest the informal name ‘Aswan Wheatear’.

References for ORL 4.1 Introductory Material

BirdLife Datazone (BLDZ). http://datazone.birdlife.org/home

Dickinson, EC and JV Remsen Jr. (Eds) 2013. The Howard and Moore checklist of Birds of the World. 4th edn. Vol 1. Non-Passerines. Aves Press.Eastbourne, UK.

Joseph, L. 2017. A guide for birders to the evolution and classification of Australian birds. In. Menkhorst, P, D Rogers, R Clarke, J Davies, P Marsack and K Franklin. 2017. The Australian Bird Guide. Christopher Helm. Bloomsbury, London UK and New York US.

Kryukov, AP, LN Spiridonova, S Mori, VYu Arkhipov, YA Red'kin, OA Goroshko, EG Lobkov and E Haring. 2017. Deep phylogeographic breaks in magpie Pica pica across the Holarctic: concordance with bioacoustics and phenotypes. Zool. Sci. 2017 doi: 10.2108/zs160119.

Rasmussen, P. 2017. Split Lanius excubitor into two or more species. Formal submission 2017-B-8 to the N&MA Classification Committee of the AOU.

Shirihai, H, M Schweizer, G M. Kirwan and L Svensson. 2014. Saxicola syenitica Heuglin, 1869 (Aves: Passeriformes: Muscicapidae), an overlooked taxon of Oenanthe? Zootaxa 3785(1): 1-24

ORL 3.4: summary of changes

Isenmann et al 2016 in a fine book present much data on the birds of Libya, some of which informed ORL entries on taxa occurring in Egypt and added to entries in the Hypothetical List. Wassink 2016 adds new data to that published in Wassink 2015b.

Wallace et al 2017 subsume Oceanodroma in Hydrobates, thus changing four scientific names in the ORL Collinson et al 2016 and Huang et al 2016 came to somewhat differing conclusions on the relationships of the small Egretta taxa, partly because of different molecular techniques, but also because of small samples, particularly from museum specimens, and that the two papers considered different population subsets. There is some suggestion of lumping some reef heron (reef egret) populations with some Little Egret E. garzetta populations; Nearctic Snowy Egret E, thula also seems closely related. There also may be reason to consider superspecies status, but too little is known as yet.

Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus, from reports in many countries, is expanding its range northwards, involving both the nominate and vociferus sspp. Three papers, Sonsthagen et al 2012, Nebel et al 2015 and Doyle et al 2016 examine the relationships within many Golden Eagle Aquila chyrsaetos populations. Taken together, the papers suggest that three distinct populations exist within the OSME Region (and up to four in the Nearctic), which informally and tentatively we group as ‘Northern Golden Eagle’ (chrysaetos group), ‘Mediterranean Golden Eagle’ (homeyeri group) and in easternmost Central Asia ‘American Golden Eagle’ (canadensis group subsuming kamschatica in the Kazakh Altai).

The likely identity of Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris breeding grounds was narrowed down, a little unexpectedly, to the steppe belt of mid- to northern Kazakhstan, but over a considerable latitude rang, by means of light isotope ratio analysis of samples from juvenile birds in specimen collections - Buchanan et al 2017. This covers a vast area, and so even quite a reasonable population just might still exist. The analysis by Aliabadian et al 2016 of relationships between barn owl taxa reduced Western Barn Owl Tyto alba distribution by transferring its easternmost ssp stertens & javanica to Eastern Barn Owl T. deliculata, resulting in two changes: javanica has priority over deliculata, thus making Eastern Barn Owl T. javanica, and because stertens just reaches into Afghanistan at the Torkham border crossing, it added a species to the ORL! The third species is extralimital American Barn Owl T. furcata.

In the continuing story of large grey shrikes, an amendment was proposed by Pam Rasmussen (2017) to the American Ornithological Society on the taxonomy of Nearctic and closely-related eastern Palearctic large grey shrike taxa (some of which occur in the OSME Region); this proposal aligns with the treatment suggested in the ORL.

In two papers by the same lead author, Pentzold et al 2013 & 2016, molecular and song analyses support treating the Cyprus Coal Tit as a separate species, Periparus (ater) Cypriotes; we retain a degree of caution pending further work.

Samotskaya et al 2016 re-evaluate records of Blyth’s Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum purporting to be breeding in the OSME Region, and by song-type analysis, conclude that the species employs a form of song on passage to the breeding grounds not heard when establishing breeding territory. Furthermore, museum specimens attributed to Blyth’s Reed Warbler collected reasonably close to the recently-discovered breeding areas of Large-billed Reed Warbler A. orinus are actually the latter species. Re the Eurasian/African/Mangrove Reed Warbler complex, a few tantalising snippets suggest that the relationships of isolated populations, particularly those in oases that the picture is complex, taxon ammon being provisionally names ‘Siwa Reed Warbler’ in Isenmann et al 2016 and taxon ambiguus named ‘Ambiguous Reed Warbler’ by Dutch Birding: for the latter, we earlier had coined the informal name of ‘Brehm’s Reed Warbler’, still a hypothetical Region species.

The over-lumped Zosterops genus is ripe for deconstruction, but progress is limited largely to studies of extralimital taxa, eg Husemann et al 2016 in East African white-eyes; our guess is that at least one new OSME Region taxon occupies isolated patches of mangroves, but some of these are in currently volatile areas. Wassink 2016 continues to document species newly found in Kazakhstan.

References for ORL 3.3 Introductory Material

Aliabadian, M, N Alaei-Kakhki, O Mirshamsi, V Nijman and A Roulin. 2016. Phylogeny, biogeography, and diversification of barn owls (Aves: Strigiformes). Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 119(4): 904–918.

Buchanan, GM, AL Bond, NJ Crockford, J Kamp, JW Pearce-Higgins and GM Hilton. 2017. The potential breeding range of Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris identified by stable-isotope analysis. Bird Cons. Intl. 10pp. doi.org/10.1017/S0959270916000551

Collinson, JM, E Ferguson, T Jones and C Rozen. 2016. Genetic analysis of a Western Reef Egret E. gularis fgrom Israel. Sandgrouse 38((1): 2-4.

Doyle, JM, TE Katzner, GW Roemer, JW Cain III, BA Millsap, CL McIntyre, SA Sonsthagen, NB Fernandez, M Wheeler, Z Bulut, PH Bloom and JA DeWoody. 2016. Genetic structure and viability selection in the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), a vagile raptor with a Holarctic distribution. Conserv. Genet. doi: 10.1007/s10592-016-0863-0

Huang, ZH, MF Li and JW Qin. 2016. DNA barcoding and phylogenetic relationships of Ardeidae (Aves: Ciconiiformes). Genet. Mol. Res. 15 (3): gmr.15038270

Husemann, M, S Sturm, M Curto, H Meimberg and JC Habel. 2016. Four new mitochondrial genomes of the genus Zosterops (Aves: Passeriformes: Zosteropidae) from East Africa with a phylogenetic evaluation of the group. MtDNA Part B 1(1): 544-548. doi: 10.1080/23802359.2016.1198937

Isenmann, P. J Hering, S Brehme, M Essghaire, K Etayeb, E Bourass and H Azafzaf. 2016. Oiseaux de Libye/Birds of Libya. SEO France. National Museum of Natural History, 55 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France.

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.

Pentzold, S, C Tritscha, J Marten, DT Tietze, G Giacalone, M Lo Valvo, AA Nazarenko, L Kvist and M Päckert. 2013. Where is the line? Phylogeography and secondary contact of western Palearctic coal tits (Periparus ater: Aves, Passeriformes, Paridae). Zool. Anzeiger. 252: 367-382.

Pentzold, S, MI Förschler, DT Tietze, C Randler, J Martens and M Päckert. 2016. Geographic variation in coal tit song across continents and reduced species recognition between Central European and Mediterranean populations. Vert. Zool. 66(2): 191-199.

Rasmussen, P. 2017. Split Lanius excubitor into two or more species. Formal submission 2017-B-8 to the N&MA Classification Committee of the AOU.

Samotskaya, V, I Marova, P Kvartalnov, V Yu Arkhipov and V Ivanitskii. 2016. Song in two cryptic species: comparative analysis of Large-billed Reed Warblers Acrocephalus orinus and Blyth's Reed Warblers Acrocephalus dumetorum. Bird Study 63(4): 479-489 (doi: 10.1080/00063657.2016.1220489)

Sonsthagen, SA, TJ Coonan, BC Latta, GK Sage and SL Talbot. 2012. Genetic diversity of a newly established population of golden eagles on the Channel Islands, California. Biol Conserv. 146: 116-122.

Wallace, SJ, JA Morris-Pocock, J González-Solis, P Quillfeldt and V Friesen. 2017. A phylogenetic test of sympatric speciation in the Hydrobatinae (Aves Procellariiformes). Mol. Phyl. Evol. 107: 39-47.

Wassink, A. 2016. Birds of Kazakhstan: new and interesting data, part 7. Dutch Birding 38(6): 388-392.


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.