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 7.1 July 2021

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 7.1: Summary of changes


Lehikoinen et al 2021 proves the increasing tendency of long-distance migrants spending their non-breeding season in the northern hemisphere is related to Climate Change.

A considerable number of splits and proposed splits already recognised in the ORL have, over the last 18 months, now been accepted independently in the IOC List. On some of these splits, we have been in prior discussion with David Donsker and Pamela Rasmussen, who compile the IOC List (https://www.worldbirdnames.org/new/). Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has prevented or delayed much fieldwork and museum research. Still, it has allowed many authors to catch up on their backlog of papers for publication, leading to a host of amendments to the ORL.

In Taxonomic Sequence


Damba et al. 2020 found that wetland disappearance and degradation have made Korea and Japan devoid of the globally threatened Swan Goose Anser cygnoides in the non-breeding season and have shifted the population in China away from traditional wintering grounds. As a result, total numbers appear down by c15%.

The globally threatened Eastern Palearctic populations of Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus were geotracked by Ao et al 2020 between their non-breeding areas In China and their breeding areas between the Anabar River & the Kolyma River in eastern Siberia. They also incorporated data from Korea and Japan. All eastern populations are in steady and fairly steep decline, but they conclude that this species was tied to grazing single-species swards of spikerush Eleocharis sp and foxtail Alopecurus sp which has disappeared almost completely from the Yangtze valley. The loss of shallow water & mud habitat has been replaced by permanent pools to grow commercially Lotus Nelumbo nucifera & where large-scale Chinese Mitten Crab Eriocheir sinensis aquaculture has expanded since 2003.

Lavretsky et al 2021 established that ancestral gene flow occurred between Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis & true Eiders Somateria spp, which occurrence may have produced, by hybrid speciation, Steller’s Eider Polysticta stelleri.

On Réunion, the main 2 colonies of Barau’s Petrel Pterodroma baraui on very steep mountain slopes lie within 5km of each other, but the respective populations are genetically distinct, though phenotypically & morphologically indistinguishable: Danckwerts et al 2021. No assessment of relative taxonomic differentiation has yet been made.

Grémillet et al 2020 document a Northern Gannet Morus bassanus population crash of the southernmost breeding location on Rouzic Island in Brittany, France, attributed mostly to poor feeding conditions in non-breeding areas, due to a shifting prey base driven by global warming. Colonies further north show no similar declines, but many Rouzic birds winter in the Mediterranean, one tracked in successive years to the Lebanon coast; this group suffers high accidental bycatch mortality.

Muzaffar et al 2017 identify short-range migrations of UAE populations of Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis, finding no mixing with populations in the southern Oman-Socotra arc, noting that populations west of Qatar in the Gulf of Salwa likely are also distinct and these should be considered as evolutionary separate units.

Some clarity on Buzzard taxa from easternmost Kazakhstan south and east to the western Himalayas at long last has been teased out from interpreting James 1988, Dickinson & Svensson 2012, Dickinson & Remsen 2013 & Lindholm & Forsten 2013. The migrant taxon burmanicus, formerly considered a synonym of refectus, is now a migratory ssp of Japanese Buzzard Buteo japonicus, whose other sspp are resident on Japanese islands. Previous synonymisation of burmanicus with taxon refectus was in error. B. refectus is now the largely resident Himalayan Buzzard of the western Himalayas. The status of the extralimital taxon hodgsoni of the eastern Himalayas is as yet uncertain: if it is a ssp of refectus, then the latter is polytypic, but hodgsoni may yet be a full sp

Salter et al 2019 make the case for Collared Owlet to be placed in the resurrected genus Taenioptynx.


The Large-billed Crow complex within Corvus macrorhynchos sensu lato (Distributed from eastern Afghanistan east along the Himalayas across China & up to Sakhalin & Japan, & south to Sri Lanka, & southeast to the Sundas & the Philippines) has long been recognised as comprising possibly 7 spp, but data were lacking on distributional boundaries and genetic relationships. Gradually, this is beginning to change, IOC11.2 interpreting data on westernmost forms (Rasmussen & Anderton 2005, 2012) to detach Himalayan Crow C.[m.] intermedius (the taxon in the OSME Region, extralimital to C Himalayas), Indian Jungle Crow C.[m.] culminatus (Peninsular India & Sri Lanka) & Eastern Jungle Crow C.[m.] levaillantii (N India to Malay peninsula). Perhaps 4 more spp are yet to be determined.

IOC11.2 revises the linear sequence of Hirundinidae, also resurrecting the genus Neophedina for Banded Martin N. cincta. Leader et al 2021 proposed full species status for Western House Martin Delichon urbicum, Eastern House Martin D. lagopodum & Asian House Martin D. dasypus on detailed ID differences and lack of hybridisation in sympatric colonies, which arrangement the ORL has held for some time. IOC11.2 accepts the split although preferring the epithets Common & Siberian for the first two English names.

Alström et al 2021 suggest in passing that Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus sspp stentoreus, levantinus & brunnescens might best be treated as species. The current ORL tentatively suggests that brunnescens may be a species, Indian Reed Warbler, but we will await IOC specialist reviewers.

Alström et al 2021 using a detailed integrative taxonomic approach split Graceful Prinia into P. gracilis sensu stricto occupying the N & E distribution of P. gracilis sensu lato, with Delicate Prinia P. lepida occupying the southern and eastern distribution.

IOC11.2 revises the linear sequence of Turdidae, a long-awaited action.

Päckert et al 2021 examine relationships in Passeridae between Old World sparrows to establish a revised phylogeny; they include many more species than previous phylogenies, strongly establishing Petronia and Gymnoris as separate genera and retain the golden sparrows in Passer. Although they declined to propose a detailed revised taxonomy because may species could not be included in their study, their general conclusions alter our understanding of the relationships of many species in the ORL. For example, Socotra Sparrow P. insularis does shares a common ancestry with House P. domesticus, Spanish P. hispaniolensis and Italian P. italiae Sparrows and has no recent link with Great Sparrow P. motitensis are previously suggested.

Deleted from the ORL

Vaurie’s Nightjar Caprimulgus centralasicus has been removed from the ORL Hypothetical List and transferred to the list of removed species that is appended to the Hypothetical List; its DNA indicates it belongs to the plumipes subspecies of European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus.

Taxa added to the ORL

On the Trindade Petrel Pterodroma arminjoiana breeding grounds on Round Island, Seychelles, Howell & Zufelt 2019 noted that small numbers of Kermadec Petrel P. neglecta & Herald Petrel P. heraldica breed & also hybridise with Trindade Petrel. Given that non-breeding Trindade Petrel loaf in the deep-sea OSME Region in BirdLife IBA Indian Ocean Western Marine 31, it is highly likely that non-breeding individuals of the other 2 spp join them or wander to the southern limits of the OSME deep-sea area. Kermadec and Herald Petrels have been added to the ORL.

Delicate Prinia Prinia lepida has been added to the ORL as a split from Graceful Prinia P. gracilis: qv Alström et al 2021 above.

African Desert Warbler Curruca deserti has been photographed in Cyprus by Thomas Hadjikyriacou and has been accepted by the Cyprus Rarities Committee, resulting in the transfer of the taxon from the ORL Hypothetical List to the Passerine List.

There is a very reasonable probability that Black-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi occurs in the OSME Region where the detailed Gilgit-Baltistan 2021 Checklist (Maintained on Facebook) maps it on the southern side of the Wakhan Pass, Afghanistan. Birds of Gilgit-Baltistan is an Environmental Conservation Organization with excellent and detailed data. Further evidence comes from Cobos et al 2021, who by using eBird plots, indicate the species’ presence in eastern Nuristan, Afghanistan, only 250km SW of the Gilgit records: both are about 275km beyond the BirdLife DataZone map.


Alström, P, PC Rasmussen, C Xia, L Zhang, C Liu, J Magnusson, A Shafaeipour and U Olsson. 2021. Morphology, vocalizations, and mitochondrial DNA suggest that the Graceful Prinia is two species. Orn. 138: 1-23. doi: 10.1093/ornithology/ukab014
Ao, P, X Wang, D Solovyeva, F Meng, T Ikeuchi, T Shimada, J Park, D Gao, G Liu, B Hu, T Natsagdorj, B Zheng, S Vartanyan, B Davaasuren, J Zhang, L Cao1 and AD Fox. 2020. Rapid decline of the geographically restricted and globally threatened Eastern Palearctic Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus. Wildfowl Special Issue 6: 206–243.
Birds of Gilgit-Baltistan https://www.facebook.com/birdsgb/ & https://www.facebook.com/groups/birdsgb/
Cobos, ME, Y Cheng, G Song, F Lei and AT Peterson. 2021. New distributional opportunities with niche innovation in Eurasian snowfinches. bioRxiv preprint. doi.org/10.1101/2021.04.06.438738
Damba, I, L Fang, K Yi, J Zhang, N Batbayar, J You, O-K Moon, S-D Jin, BF Liu, G Liu, W Xu, B Hu, S Liu, J Park, H Kim, K Koyama, T Natsagdorj, B Davaasuren, H Lee, O Goroshko, Q Zhu, L Ge, L Cao1 and AD.Fox. 2020. Flyway structure, breeding, migration and wintering distributions of the globally threatened Swan Goose Anser cygnoides in East Asia. Wildfowl Special Issue 6: 97–123.
Danckwerts, DK, L Humeau, P Pinet, CD McQuaid and M Le Corre. 2021. Extreme philopatry and genetic diversification at unprecedented scales in a seabird. Scient. Reps. 11: 6834. www.nature.com/scientificreports doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-86406-9
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.
Dickinson, EC and L Svensson. 2012. A new name for a buzzard from the Himalayas. Bull. BOC 132(3): 221.
Grémillet, D, C Péron, A Lescroël, J Fort, SC Patrick, A Besnard and P Provost. 2020. No way home: collapse in northern gannet survival rates point to critical marine ecosystem perturbation. Marine Biol. 167: Paper 189 (10pp). doi.org/10.1007/s00227-020-03801-y
Howell, SNG and K Zufelt. 2019. Oceanic Birds of the World: a Photo Guide. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA.
James, AH. 1988. Geographic variation in the Buzzard Buteo buteo (L.): japonicus-group (Aves: Accipitridae). Beaufortia. 38(4): 57-74.
Lavretsky, P, RE Wilson, SL Talbot and SA Sonsthagen. 2021. Phylogenomics reveals ancient and contemporary gene flow contributing to the evolutionary history of sea ducks (Tribe Mergini). Mol. Phyl. & Evol. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2021.107164
Leader, P, G Carey and M Schweizer. 2021. The identification, taxonomy and distribution of Western, Siberian and Asian House Martins. Brit. Birds. 114(2): 72-96.
Lehikoinen, A, Å Lindström, A Santangeli, PM Sirkiä, L Brotons, V Devictor, J Elts, RPB Foppen, H Heldbjerg, S Herrando, M Herremans, M-AR Hudson, F Jiguet, A Johnston, R Lorrilliere, E-L Marjakangas, NL Michel, CM Moshøj, R Nellis, J-Y Paquet, AC Smith, T Szép and Chris van Turnhout. 2021. Wintering bird communities are tracking climate change faster than breeding communities. J. Anim. Ecol. 31pp. In Press.
Lindholm, A and A Forsten. 2013. “Common” Buzzards of South China and South-East Asia. Caluta 4: 3-11.
Muzaffar, SB, C Clarke, R Whelan, R Gubiani and TR Cook. 2017. Short distance directional migration in the threatened Socotra cormorant: link to primary productivity and implications for conservation. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 575: 181–194.
Päckert, M, J Hering, AA Belkacem, Y-H Sun, S Hille, D Lkhagvasuren, S Islam and J Martens. 2021. A revised multilocus phylogeny of Old World sparrows (Aves: Passeridae). Vert. Zool. 71: 353–366. https://doi.org/10.3897/vz.71.e65952
Rasmussen, P and JC Anderton. 2005. Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. 2 vols. Lynx Edicions, Smithsonian Institution. Barcelona, Washington. Spain, USA.
Rasmussen, P and JC Anderton. 2012. Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide, 2nd edn. 2 vols. Lynx Edicions, Smithsonian Institution. Barcelona, Washington. Spain, USA.
Salter, JF, CH Oliveros, PA Hosner, JD Manthey MB Robbins, RG Moyle, RT Brumfield, and BC Faircloth. 2019.
Extensive paraphyly in the typical owl family (Strigidae). The Auk. 137: 1–15. doi: 10.1093/auk/ukz070

ORL 6.2 Summary of Changes


IOC 11.1 resequences Anseriformes to precede Galliformes. IOC11.1 also has a major revision of Alaudala lark relationships, some of which involve immediate taxonomic changes; others require more work as summarised in Stervander et al 2020 and other papers. IOC11.1 also accepts Arabian Eagle Owl as a full species Bubo milesi.

A trawl of older documents and some unpublished notes of the late Arthur Stagg has added a few interesting snippets to the ORL.


The almost-mythical Vaurie’s Nightjar Caprimulgus centralasicus (sole specimen is sole record) appears well on its way to being wholly mythical. Schweizer et al 2020 indicate that almost certainly its DNA is that of the Common Nightjar C. europaeus subspecies plumipes (of NW China & points N). However, the specimen, being a small individual, and considering the limits of the research findings, we retain this taxon somewhat tenuously on the ORL Hypothetical List.

Note that IOC11.1 now sequences Porzana distantly from Zapornia, intervening genera including Paragallinula, Gallinula, Fulica and Porphyrio. The first record and breeding record for Socotra of Western Baillon’s Crake Zapornia intermedia occurred in April 2020.

Shannon et al 2020 (in press) separated Lesser, Mongolian and Greater Sandplover genetically (Anarhynchus atrifrons, mongolus & leschenaultii respectively).

Humeau et al 2020 have determined the genetic structure of all taxa under White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon lepturus sensu lato; their conclusions largely reinforce the assumptions of Howell & Zufelt 2019.

Hering et al 2020a found 3 subspecies of European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur breeding around Lake Nasser in 2019; rufescens (abundant), turtur & arenicola.

Numerous colonies of Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus and of 8 Ardeids have established themselves around Lake Nasser in southern Egypt; Hering et al 2020b in a limited survey programme (The lake surface area is 5250 km2) in 3 years in the 2015-2019 period could visit only a small number of sites by boat. That suggests that many discoveries are yet to be made.

Hering et al 2020c document the substantial presence of Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis at Lake Nasser; unfortunately, they also document illegal killing by local and Maltese shooters.


Hering et al 2020d in Djibouti in February 2019 obtained blood samples & measurements of Mangrove Reed Warbler Acrocephalus (scirpaceus) avicenniae, (but breeding had not begun) and of ‘Mangrove White-eye’ Zosterops abyssinicus(?) for subsequent analysis to help establish the taxonomic position of these populations. They noted that in Djibouti City House Sparrow Passer domesticus was hybridising extensively with Somali Sparrow P. castanopterus to the extent that the latter were scarcely to be found.

Stervander et al 2020 examine many lark taxa in genetic detail, but refrain from taxonomic recommendation, mostly because their analyses have revealed aspects that require clarification, in particular distribution boundaries between related taxa in areas where distribution limits are poorly known. However, they found deep divergences between western and eastern populations of Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes (OSME Region populations might have the English name Bifasciated Lark restored, the taxa possibly coming under A. desertorum), and between western and eastern populations of Bar-tailed Lark Ammomanes cinctura. The problem here is that the subspecies arenicolor over its North African distribution has been found to comprise 2 genetically different taxa whose distributions and boundaries are unknown. Should a split be recommended, it is likely that OSME Region populations will require a new English name. Whether arenicolor is retained for western or eastern taxa will determine the applicable scientific name for the Region.

Stervander et al 2020 found divergences suggestive of 3 species within the Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti complex; should this split be forthcoming, two of the current subspecies pose a nomenclatural priority problem – they both were formally described in the same year, 1823. Until all subspecies have been evaluated as to validity, the reallocation of subspecies to the 3 possible species, any new scientific and English names would be uncertain, at the very least.

Stervander et al 2020 found divergences between (mostly) western and eastern populations of Black-crowned Sparrowlark Eremeopterix nigriceps, raising the possibility that OSME Region taxa might revive the English name Black-crowned Finch Lark. However, boundaries between current subspecies are imprecisely known and so it is just possible that the easternmost subspecies of the ‘western’ group meets the eastern group subspecies melanauchen just into southernmost Egypt.

Stervander et al 2020 found that mtDNA evidence supported the decision of del Hoyo et al 2016 to lump Singing Bush Lark Mirafra cantillans into Horsfield’s Bush lark M. javanica, but advise that other integrative techniques are required to confirm their conclusions.

Stervander et al 2020 confirmed deep split of Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis from Oriental Skylark A. gulgula and implied a further split of extralimital ssp japonica.

Stervander et al 2020 found that Thekla’s Lark Galerida theklae populations of Morocca and Tunisia diverged from those in eastern Africa, which if split would come under G. praetermissa; likely the latter would include the small Egyptian isolate of carolinae.

Stervander et al 2020 found an un-named Clade mainly in Afghanistan that is currently assumed as part of the western distribution of Hume’s Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris subspecies tibetana but noted that despite deep mtDNA divergence, integrative application of other DNA & non-molecular techniques essential before species status confirmation. We have tentatively allotted a row to this taxon; we have used the informal English name ‘Afghan Short-toed Lark’ under the designation of C.(a.) indet (indeterminate).

Stervander et al 2020 largely supported the rearrangement of the Alaudala lark complex proposed by Alström et al 2020.

Following the work of Fishpool and Tobias 2017, Common Bulbul was split into 3 species, those populations in the OSME Region remaining as Pycnonotus barbatus, the other two being extralimital in Djibouti to E-C Kenya.

A number of Curruca warbler species have been resequenced in the ORL, as have OSME Region Zosterops species, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler Erythrogenys erythrogenys, Trochalopteron Laughingthrushes and Argya Babblers. The Nuthatch Sitta genus has also been resequenced, as has the Ficedula Flycatcher genus.

The ORL is hugely dependent not only on researchers publishing their papers in accessible journals, but also on the willingness of those whose work is behind paywalls to let us have a copy privately. I suggest it’s worth casting your eye over the ORL’s List of Acknowledgements at https://osme.org/orl/acknowledgements/ to see the new names and because you might think of people whom we have inadvertently omitted!

An Antidote to the Taxonomic Avalanche in Ornithology

Finally, as reported in Dutch Birding 42(4), page 82, two Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe radiotagged in Fairbanks, Alaska, migrated via Kazakhstan and the Arabian desert, Sudan, Uganda to Kenya, a round-trip of 30,000 kilometres in 2019-20. I hope that brings a sense of wonder back into our consciousness after a pretty sombre year!


Alström, P, J van Linschooten, PF Donald, G Sundev, Z Mohammadi, F Ghorbani,A Shafaeipour, A van den Berg, M Robb, M Aliabadian, C Wei, F Lei, B Oxelman, and U Olsson, 2020. Multiple species delimitation approaches applied to the avian lark genus Alaudala, Mol. Phyl. & Evol. Pre-print. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2020.106994

Fishpool, LDC and JA Tobias. 2017. Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus). In: del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, J Sargatal, DA Christie and E de Juana. (Eds). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Hering, J, V Mader, T Krause, O Geiter and H-J Fünfstück. 2020a. Extreme auf dem Nassersee: Turteltauben in Ägypten [Unexpected at Lake Nasser: European Turtle Dove (subspecies) in Egypt]. Der Falke: J. für Vogelbeobachter. 67(7): 14-17.

Hering, J, S Fischer, O Geiter, J Wobker, S Siegel, H-J Eilts, E Fuchs., D Hoek and M Habib. 2020b. Large Breeding Colonies of Herons, Egrets and Glossy Ibis at Lake Nasser (Egypt). Alauda 88(4): 241-256.

Hering, J, S Fischer, E Fuchs, MI Habib and J Wobker. 2020c. Yellow-billed Storks at Lake Nasser and status in Egypt. Dutch Birding 42(5): 415-423.

Hering, J, W Mädlow, O Geiter, A Siegmund, HJ Eilts, E Fuchs, K Müller, R Müller, H Rayaleh and R Vohwinkel. 2020d. Untersuchungen zur Avifauna der Mangrovenwälder Dschibutis sowie zur Klärung taxonomischer Fragestellungen bei Buntastrild Pytilia melba sowie Haussperling Passer domesticus und Somalisperling Passer castanopterus – erste Ergebnisse. Vogelwarte 58: 349 – 362.

Howell, SNG and K Zufelt. 2019. Oceanic Birds of the World: a Photo Guide. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA.

del Hoyo, J, NJ Collar, DA Christie, A Elliott, LDC Fishpool, P Boesman, and GM Kirwan. 2016. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: Passerines. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

Humeau, L, M Le Corre, SJ Reynolds, C Wearn, JC Hennicke, JC Russell, Y Gomard, H Magalon, P Pinet, P Gélin, F-X Couzi, E Bemanaja, V Tatayah, B Ousseni, G Rocamora, P Talbot, N Shah, L Bugoni, D Da Silva and Audrey Jaeger. 2020. Genetic structuring among colonies of a pantropical seabird: Implication for subspecies validation and conservation. Ecol. & Evol. 2020:00: 1–20. doi:10.1002/ece3.6635

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

Shannon et al 2020. (in prep). The Lesser Sandplover complex. (Details unavailable at time of writing)Stervander, M, B Hansson, U Olsson, MF Hulme, U Ottosson and P Alström. 2020. Molecular Species Delimitation of Larks (Aves: Alaudidae), and Integrative Taxonomy of the Genus Calandrella, with the Description of a Range-Restricted African Relic Taxon. Diversity. 12: 428. doi:10.3390/d12110428

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.

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 currently 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.


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