OSME Region List ORL

OSME Region List of birds

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

The OSME Region List of Bird Taxa – Version 6.1 July 2020

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 Region, should 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 Simplified ORL) 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.

ORL 6.1 summary of changes

First, I would recommend highly the inspired photography and the context in this online book: de Fouw, J, R Bom, W Hagemeier, A Thorpe, R Klaasen and Jvd Kam. 2018. Barr al Hikman, Shorebird paradise in Oman. Wetlands International, The Netherlands. Downloadable from: https://issuu.com/tvgdesign/docs/bah_binnenwerk_issuu_pages

IOC version 10.2 contains a large number of Species, English names and Taxonomic updates; fortunately for us, the vast majority apply to taxa that are extralimital to the OSME Region.

Elsewhere, the demise of Lynx Edicions Handbook of Birds of the World (Alive) is a consequence of  its on-line archive being merged with Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Birds of the World (birdsoftheworld.org): it appears that nearly all of the free access HBW(Alive) component linked to its subscription service is now embedded in the Cornell subscription service. Many HBW(Alive) species accounts are being updated prior to transfer. There is also much work behind the scenes in merging the Cornell and HBW(Alive) taxonomies, the latter also being very close to BirdLife International taxonomy. On top of that, there is much activity in current ornithological molecular research worldwide, much of which adds new taxonomic conclusions or puts a new interpretation on some aspects of current taxonomy of species and genera. The ORL6.1 amendments (see below) mostly reflect the actual and potential changes from the latest research.

In January 2020, a new species for the OSME Region was the unexpected finding of an African Crake Crex egregia in Israel, 2000km away from the nearest known population in Sudan. The species has since been placed (IOC10.2) in the new genus Crecropsis, for its relationship to Crex is distant (Garcia-Ramirez et al 2020). Another new species for the OSME Region was the arrival in February 2020 of 12 White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata on Socotra, after a cyclone and a super-cyclone had hit the Somalian and north Kenya coasts. Almost simultaneously, birds of this species found in the wild and in markets in Iraq were assessed as of uncertain origin (Salim et al 2020).

A more detailed reading of Howell & Zufelt 2019 has resulted in two more changes of English name, firstly Indian Black Noddy Anous [minutus] tenuirostris, which supersedes IOC’s Lesser Noddy and the earlier Sooty Noddy, and secondly, having elevated the orange-billed Phaethon lepturus catesbyi to a full species, the remaining taxa are named Yellow-billed Tropicbird instead of White-tailed Tropicbird.

Some good news about Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus; a survey of the Muscat-Quriyah-Al-Harar region revealed a much larger population than previously had been estimated (Angelov et al 2020) & conservative extrapolation suggests Oman’s resident population may be 4 times larger.

In a study of 282 Little Owl skins from across the Extended Western Palearctic, Pellegrino et al 2020 found an absence of clear-cut differences between subspecies and a huge variation of morphological and colour patterns between individuals collected within any geographical area; no subspecies could safely be identified on morphological and plumage data. The implications are considerable: save for island taxa, not only are current subspecies geographical boundaries suspect, but also subspecies identities themselves. Without comprehensive analyses of a suite of molecular techniques applied to establish the criteria for subspecific identity and for geographic allocation across the vast Little Owl distribution, the current documented conclusions published anywhere are of limited and probably variable accuracy. Large-scale vocalisation recording is likely to help discriminate between taxa. Meanwhile, we remain with our tentative arrangement in the ORL in the full expectation that eventually it will change.

The Lesser Short-toed Lark complex, Alaudala spp including Sand Lark A. raytal, has been extensively revised by Ghorbani et al 2020 into 5 Clades. We have adopted these Clades as the starting point in defining likely species status, but we acknowledge that a further paper from largely the same team examining songs and calls might change the provisional arrangement which we consider is helpful at this stage. Ghorbani et al 2020 identify the clades by the senior taxon name in each (heiniei, rufescens, raytal, cheelensis, leucophaea), but for simplicity we list them from A to E. Should the forthcoming paper choose English names that differ from our provisional informal English names of Heine’s Short-toed Lark (Clade A) and Severtsov’s Short-toed Lark (Clade E), we most probably would defer to their choice, although the Russians have used the latter name for decades. The other English names (Lesser Short-toed Lark, Sand Lark and Asian Short-toed Lark) are unchanged.

An extensive study of all taxa that formed Subalpine Warbler Curruca cantillans, Zuccon et al 2020, has synonymised inornata & iberiae under the latter, and results in 3 species, two of which occupy two separate distributions each: Moltoni’s Warbler C. subalpina of the Balearics and central Italy has never been recorded in the OSME Region: Western Subalpine Warbler C. iberiae has straggled to the Region from its North African population, and eastern Subalpine Warbler C. cantillans ssp albistriata occurs in Western Turkey.

There are two new papers on Zosterops white-eyes that deal with taxa in our Region, one almost peripherally. Martins et al 2020 covered the 3 sspp of Z. abyssinicus Abyssinian Whiteye, two of which are wholly extralimital African taxa; ssp arabs occurs in SW Saudi Arabia, Yemen and S Oman. The paper recommended that all three allopatric taxa should be examined by other molecular techniques to establish their taxonomic status; unfortunately, only two samples of montane-living arabs were available for the study. Given that four recent papers on Zosterops taxa over their extensive distribution have all concluded that rapid niche speciation is characteristic of the genus, it is likely that the three abyssinicus sspp will exhibit niche speciation to some extent. Pro tem, we have adopted the informal English name ‘Arabian White-eye’ for arabs. The second paper, Babbington et al 2020, concentrates on the mangrove-living Zosterops that is very thinly widespread on the Arabian side of the southern Red Sea, perhaps centred on Jazan. That the population is almost certainly tiny indicates its vulnerability to extinction, given that mangrove clearance continues. The genetic marker used shows no clear difference from montane arabs, but it is very much smaller, phenotypically different and consistently much more brightly-coloured. There is no type specimen and the collecting of one, given that the distribution is unknown but likely tiny and not continuous, presents a moral dilemma; however, there may be a precedent for designation a type specimen of sorts from blood and feather samples, measurements and copious digital images. However, at present, there is no method of proposing formal scientific or English names and so we list it as ‘Mangrove White-eye taxon indeterminate’.

Päckert et al 2020 compile a revised phylogeny of the world’s Nuthatches Sitta spp. They form 9 Clades, of which 6 occur to varying extents in the OSME Region, but our arrangement is little affected and so we have not resequenced the genus into Clade order. Almost inevitably, they have defined several aspects that likely could be resolved by the application of other molecular techniques and by improved understanding of distributions.

There is likely to be some turbulence concerning the Stonechat Saxicola spp of the Caucasus general region, whereby the arrangement of Shirihai & Svensson 2018 (based on Svensson et al 2012) has been vigorously challenged by Loskot & Bakhtadze 2020, whose paper concentrates on earlier Russian documentation, implied mistranslations, conversion errors between measurement systems of samples, and wrongly attributed sample collection locations. We note the conclusions of Loskot & Bakhtadze 2020, but defer deeper analysis until such time as Shirihai and Svensson respond.

The analysis of the Prunellidae (Accentors) by Drovetski et al 2013 contained three radical conclusions: the large accentors, Altai Prunella himalayana and Alpine P. collaris might warrant moving to a separate genus or subgenus, Laiscopus; Alpine Accentor itself warranted splitting, the taxon erythropygia being elevated to species rank as Mongolian Alpine Accentor, and Black-throated Accentor being split into Ural Black-throated Accentor P. atrogularis sensu stricto & Asian Black-throated Accentor P. huttoni. At the time, we felt fairly bold in treating each split as being examples of superspecies, but declined to mention the issue of Laiscopus. In the 7 years since the paper was published, there have been no challenges to these radical splits, nor to the evidence on which they were based. For two reasons, we sought advice on where the boundaries were between each pair of taxa: we had no knowledge of any subsequent data that might revise the extent of their distributions (much of which would have been published in Cyrillic languages), and the maps in Drovetski et al 2013 do not show political borders and so we needed clarification before marking the separations.

Yaroslav Red’kin, one of the co-authors confirmed that he knew of no further published data, and the lead author, Sergei Drovetski, confirmed that their various mapped distributions were valid. Unlike the BirdLife Datazone maps, many accentor species distributions are far from continuous. Accordingly, we revisited Drovetski et al 2013 and have amended many of the ORL accentor species account with greater detail. We now treat these splits as being of independent species. We have not adopted Laiscopus as a separate genus, but merely noted this may occur in future. Lastly, although Brown Accentor P. fulvescens diverged from Arabian Accentor P. fagani only 0.19Mya, this just preceded the rapid disappearance of benign conditions from the interior of Arabia, thus ensuring an uninterrupted isolation of the two populations as they shrank towards their cores.

Species occurring just outside the OSME Region
Wattled Lapwing Vanellus senegallus has been added to the ORL Hypothetical section on the grounds that it occurs on the Dahlak Archipelago, close to the Region boundary in the southern Red Sea. Similarly we added Temminck’s Courser Cursorius temmincki, which has also been reported in the same archipelago. Because a summer-breeding population of Ruddy-breasted Crake Zapornia fusca has been mapped as an isolate in a small area of Pakistan around Bannu, west of Rawalpindi by BirdLife Datazone to within 20km of the Afghan border, it has been added to the Hypothetical List.

One of the most intriguing ornithological puzzles may have been solved. Vaurie’s Nightjar Caprimulgus centralasicus, known from a single female specimen in Xinjiang, only 300km from the OSME Region (hence listed in the ORL Hypothetical section), has undergone molecular analysis. Schweizer et al 2020 place the specimen as a subspecies of European Nightjar, C. europaeus plumipes, but there is a catch. The specimen is very much smaller than any known plumipes measured.

Angelov, I, C Bougain, M Schulze, T Al Sariri, M McGrady and B-Ulrich Meyburg. 2020. A globally-important stronghold in Oman for a resident population of the endangered Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus. Ardea 108: 1-10. doi:10.5253/arde.v108i1.a4
Babbington, J, CRJ Boland, G Kirwan and M Schweizer. 2020. Morphological differences between ‘Mangrove White‑eye’ and montane Abyssinian White‑eye (Zosterops abyssinicus arabs) in Arabia despite no differentiation in mitochondrial DNA: incipient speciation via niche divergence? J. Orn. doi.org/10.1007/s10336-020-01788-3
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
Garcia-Ramirez, JC, EM Lemmon, AR Lemmon and N French. 2020. Phylogenomic Reconstruction Sheds Light on New Relationships and Timescale of Rails (Aves: Rallidae) Evolution. Diversity2020. 12: 70; doi:10.3390/d12020070
Howell, SNG and K Zufelt. 2019. Oceanic Birds of the World: a Photo Guide. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA.
Ghorbani, F, M Aliabadian, R Zhang, M Irested, Y Hao, S Gombobaater, F Lei, M Ma, U Olsson and Per Alström. 2020. Densely sampled phylogenetic analyses of the Lesser Short-toed Lark (Alaudala rufescens) – Sand Lark (A. raytal) species complex (Aves, Passeriformes) reveal cryptic diversity. Zool. Scripta 00: 1-13. doi: 10.1111/zsc.12422
Loskot, VM and G Bakhtadze. 2020. Distribution, systematics and nomenclature of the three taxa of Common Stonechats (Aves, Passeriformes, Muscicapidae, Saxicola) that breed in the Caucasian region. Zoosystematica Rossica 29(1): 33–57. doi 10.31610/zsr/2020.29.1.33
Martins, FC, SC Cox, M Irestedt, RP Prŷs-Jones and JJ Day. 2020. A comprehensive molecular phylogeny of Afrotropical white-eyes (Aves: Zosteropidae) highlights prior underestimation of mainland diversity and complex colonisation history. Mol. Phyl. & Evol. doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2020.106843
Päckert, M, M Bader-Blukott, B Künzelmann, Y-H Sun, Y-C Hsu, C Kehlmaier, F Albrecht, JC Illera and J Martens. 2020. A revised phylogeny of nuthatches (Aves, Passeriformes, Sitta) reveals insight in intra- and interspecific diversification patterns in the Palearctic. Verteb. Zool. 70(2): 241-262.
Pellegrino, I, M Cucco, E Calà, G Boano and M Pavia. 2020. Plumage coloration and morphometrics of the Little Owl Athene noctua in the Western Palearctic. J. Orn. pp11 doi.org/10.1007/s10336-020-01792-7

Salim, MA, WAS Yassir, SA Abed, R Porter, MT Jabbar, LA al-Obeidi, HA Hadi and ZS Harbi. 2020. Observations of White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata in Iraq. Sandgrouse 42(1): 115-117.
Schweizer, M, C Etzbauer, H Shirihai. T Töpfer and GM Kirwan. 2020. A molecular analysis of the mysterious Vaurie’s Nightjar Caprimulgus centralasicus yields fresh insight into its taxonomic status. J. Orn. doi.org/10.1007/s10336-020-01767-8
Shirihai, H and L Svensson. 2018. Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds: Passerines: 2 vols. Helm. London, UK.
Svensson, L, H Shirihai, S Franert and EC Dickinson. 2012. Taxonomy and nomenclature of the Stonechat complex Saxicola torquatus sensu lato in the Caspian region. Bull. BOC. 132(4): 260-269.
Zuccon, D, J-M Pons, G Boano, G Chiozzi, A Gamauf†, C Mengoni, D Nespoli, G Olioso, M Pavia, I Pellegrino, M Raković, E Randi, HR Idrissi, M Touihri, M Unsöld, S Vitulano and M Brambilla. 2020. Type specimens matter: new insights on the systematics, taxonomy and nomenclature of the subalpine warbler (Sylvia cantillans) complex. Z. J. Linn. Soc. XX: 1-28.

Summaries of Changes of earlier ORL Versions can be found here_______________________________________

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.