OSME Region List ORL

ORL5.2: summary of changes

Version 5.2 includes updates in IOC10.1. Entries for those species addressed in Brochet et al 2019 on bird killing in the Arabian Peninsula are in bold red font and will remain so. Brief summaries of Non-Passerine papers of note are:

Forcina et al 2019, investigating microsatellite DNA, reinforced the findings of Boesman 2019 (cited and listed in the Summary of Changes for ORL5.1 below) that two populations of Black Francolin separable by voice in Iran. They also suggested than an extralimital eastern population may merit species status.

Gombobaater & Leahy 2019 map Mongolian bird populations in a useful book that better indicates the distribution species that also occur or may occur in the OSME Region.

Howell & Zufelt 2019 tackle in somewhat radical fashion the oceanic seabird taxa, many of them in OSME Region waters, incorporating taxonomic changes that in part derive from unpublished data. Their conclusions make more logical arguments, but time will tell if these are accepted sooner rather than later. Their use of well-chosen photos is spellbinding. The ORL adopts the changes formally or provisionally recommended by Howell & Zufelt 2019 without assuming that these are the final word.

Hrushka 2018 is a remarkable thesis on heron genetic relationships and could well be the platform where these are teased out as the basis of a major revision of the Ardeidae. The Cattle Egrets may move to Ardea, and work elsewhere may begin to examine the Little Egret/Reef Egret complex and the relationship of American Great Egrets to those in the Palearctic.

Andreyenkova et al 2019 suggest that in the Black Kite complex, parasitus (African Black Kite) and aegyptius (Yellow-billed Kite) may warrant species status, should further work support this, but even if kept together, they are separate from migrans (Eurasian Black Kite).

Kryukov 2019 on a broad study of corvids found a deep split between western and eastern populations of Rook Corvus frugilegus. ‘Western Rook’ C.(f.) frugilegus occurs in our Region, the ‘Eastern Rook, pastinator probably occurs no closer than 900km in China.

Richardson and Porter 2020 have produced a fine field guide for the island of Cyprus.

Andreyenkova, NG, IJ Starikov, M Wink, IV Karyakin, OV Andreyenkov and IF Zhimulev. 2019. The problems of genetic support of dividing the black kite (Milvus migrans) into subspecies. Vavilovsky J. Gen. & Breeding. Evolution of the Genome 23(2): 226-231 doi10.18699/VJ19.486

Brochet, A-L, S Jbour, RD Sheldon, R Porter, VR Jones, W al-Fazari, O al-Saghier, S Alkhuzai, LA al-Obeid, R Angwin, K Ararat, M Pope, MY Shobrak, MS Willson, SS Zadeghan and SHM Butchart. 2019. A preliminary assessment of the scope and scale of illegal killing and taking of wild birds in the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq. Sandgrouse 41(2): 154-175.

Forcina, G, M Guerrini, P Panayides, P Hadjigerou, AA Khan and F Barbanera. 2019. Molecular taxonomy and intra-Palaearctic boundary: new insights from the biogeography of the black francolin (Francolinus francolinus) by means of microsatellite DNA. Systematics and Biodiversity. 15pp. doi.org/10.1080/14772000.2019.1691673

Gombobaatar, S and C Leahy. 2019. Birds of Mongolia. Helm Field Guides. London. UK.

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

Hrushka, JP. 2018. A phylogenomic evaluation of the relationships among herons (Aves: Ardeidae). MA thesis Univ. Kansas, USA.

Kryukov, A. 2019. Phylogeography and hybridization of corvid birds in the Palearctic Region. Vavilovsky J. Genet. & Breeding. 23(2): 232-238. doi10.18699/VJ19.487

Richardson, C and R Porter. 2020. Birds of Cyprus. Helm. Bloomsbury Press. London.

The following taxa have been added as new or retained as splits in the ORL:

African Crake Crex egregia was found at Eilat exhausted, taken into care and released January 2020. (2000km from nearest known population in SE Sudan).

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo Clamator coromandus, normally distributed east of Pakistan on the Indian sub-continent: one was photographed extensively in Oman.

The White Noddy Gygis alba is split provisionally into 3, that in our Region becoming Indo-Pacific Noddy G.[a.] candida.

The Bridled Tern Onychoprion anaethetus has been split into 2 polytypic species, the Western Bridled Tern of the Caribbean and western Africa and the Eastern Bridled Tern O.[a.] anaethetus of the Indian Ocean to eastern Australia.

The Red-billed Tropicbird ssp indicus has been elevated provisionally to species rank as Arabian Tropicbird Phaethon [aethereus] indicus.

The White-faced Storm Petrel ssp dulciae of our Region has been elevated to species rank as Australian Storm Petrel Pelagodroma [marina] dulciae.

The White-bellied Storm Petrel Fregatta grallaria ssp leucogaster is now thought to contain a dark-bellied form previously treated as ssp melanoleuca of Black-bellied Storm Petrel Fregatta tropica: hence our treatment in the ORL as ‘melanoleuca’; it is as yet unclear where it breeds. It has also been considered a taxon of a Gough Island petrel of the Atlantic.

The polytypic Seychelles Shearwater Puffinus [bailloni] nicolae [& ssp colstoni] (originally subsumed by the Macaronesian Shearwater P. lherminieri/boydi/barolo complex to then become part of the Mascarene Shearwater P. bailloni species) is now a full Indian Ocean species.

The Brown Booby ssp plotus is elevated to species rank as Indo-Pacific Brown Booby Sula [leucogaster] plotus.

Mountain Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus nepalensis, long-asserted as occurring in eastern Afghanistan, has now been mapped as doing so by a small amount; we assume its occasional presence.

Dunn’s Lark Eremalauda dunni (sensu stricto) (‘African Dunn’s Lark’) is now accepted as having occurred on Cyprus in 2007. All other records in the Region are attributable to what is now Arabian Lark E. eremodires that in 2007 was just a ssp of Dunn’s Lark sensu lato.

The nominate (+ 5 sspp) of Striated Prinia Prinia crinigera have been separated from eastern extralimital populations that now comprise 4 full spp (which also incorporate the former P. ploycroa), the English name becoming Himalayan Prinia.

The Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus erythrogenys, another taxon whose presence has been long-asserted as occurring in Afghanistan is now mapped as being present in a broad swathe 135km into that country in the Nurestan Forest Reserve.

Yellow-browed Bunting Emberiza chrysophrys, long-assumed to have crossed our Region as vagrants to the WP, has now been confirmed for our Region; one was photographed near Almaty, Kazakhstan.


Version 5.1 includes updates in IOC9.2. Over the last few years, the IOC List has resquenced many Families in the Passerines and has also resequenced many genera within Families and many species within genera. This has been a gradual process consequent upon (mostly) molecular research findings as DNA techniques have become ever more powerful. To some extent, this complex resequencing process has at least been slightly eased because the Passerines are but a single Order, whereas the Non-passerines comprise many Orders. IOC9.2 presents the far more difficult resequencing of the Non-passerine Orders, and the resequencing of many Scientific Families within many of these Orders. It remains to be seen whether the scale of future taxonomic revisions will reduce because changes in general will mostly be within Scientific families.

Although a large number of papers concerning taxa in the OSME Region were published over the last 6 months, the majority related to our Region peripherally or for only a few species.

Non-passerine papers of note are:

  • Boesman, P. 2019. Black Francolin has two vocal groups. Dutch Birding 41(2): 73-79
  • Flint, PR. 2019. Long-term changes in the numbers and abundance of regularly breeding species on Cyprus: a review. Sandgrouse 41(1): 36-70.
  • Flood, RL and R Gutiérrez. 2019. Status of Cory’s Shearwater in the western Mediterranean. Dutch Birding 41(3): 159-165.
  • Koshkina, A, AV Koshkin, AY Timoshenko, AA Koshkin and H Schielzeth. 2019. A population survey of the endangered White-headed Duck in Kazakhstan shows an apparently increasing Eastern population. Bird Study 66(1): 111-120.
  • Kunz, F, A Gamauf, FE Zachos and E Haring. 2019. Mitochondrial phylogenetics of the goshawk Accipiter [gentilis] superspecies. J. Zool. Syst. Evo.l Res. 1-17. doi: 10.1111/jzs.12285
  • Lago, P, M Austad and B Metzger. 2019. Partial migration in the Mediterranean Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus melitensisMar. Orn. 47: 105-113.
  • Sheldon, RD, N Mikander and J Fernández Orueta. 2018. International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala). 1st Revision. CMS Technical Series. Bonn, Germany.
  • Wink, M. 2018. Phylogeny of Falconidae and phylogeography of Peregrine Falcons. Orn. Hung. 26(2): 27-37.

The Peter Boesman paper provides strong evidence for potential separation of the Black Francolin distribution in coastal mid-Iran.

Peter Flint details in considerable depth the recent history of many Cyprus species, especially including many Passerines.

Bob Flood & Ricard Gutiérrez map out the distributions of Cory’s and Scopoli’s Shearwaters in the Mediterranean Sea, establishing the breeding divide (with a few exceptions) much further east than the Strait of Gibraltar, noting that the two species differ by voice, which presumably maintains a low incidence of hybridism.

Alyona Koshkina et al consolidate a decade of surveys and independent records to chart a plausible increase in the eastern populations of White-headed Duck.

Florian Kunz at al find more evidence for Nearctic and Palearctic populations of Northern Goshawk to be treated separately.

Paulo Lago et al from datalogging Mediterranean Storm Petrels from the Filfla colony find that outside the breeding season, birds wander to the west, but their sample size was small; further work on birds from other colonies is needed for context.

Rob Sheldon et al have revised the White-headed Duck action plan, applicable parts of which were useful to Koshkina et al above.

Michael Wink has produced a weighty synthesis of the data on the relationships of falcons and falcon populations, but in particular has better clarified the status of Peregrine subspecies/populations. The evidence indicates strongly that taxon pelegrinodes, Barbary Falcon, is best regarded as ssp of Peregrine Falcon; less strong evidence supports the possible elevation of taxon babylonicus as a full species ‘Red-capped Falcon’, but investigation of other molecular markers would have to be supportive before that step.

Lastly, and of general interest, the first Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata for the OSME Region was photographed by Bill Simpson just south of Mirbat, Dhofar, Oman in February 2019.

Passerine papers of note are:

  • Babbington, J, G Boland, GM Kirwan, A Alsuhaibany, H Shirihai and M Schweizer. 2019. Confirmation of Acrocephalus scirpaceus avicenniae (Aves: Acrocephalidae) from mangroves on the Red Sea coast near Jazan, southwest Saudi Arabia. Zool. ME. http://dx.doi.org/
  • Fuchs, J, P Alström, R Yosef and U Olsson. 2019. (In prep). Miocene diversification of an open-habitat predatorial passerine radiation, the shrikes (Aves: Passeriformes: Laniidae). (submitted to Zool. Scripta)
  • Schweizer, M and R Burri. 2019. Trends in systematics: New insights in taxonomy of wheatears. Dutch Birding 41(2): 115-120
  • Schweizer, M, V Warmuth, NA Kakhki, M Aliabadian, M Förschler, H Shirihai, A Suh and R Burri. 2019. Parallel plumage color evolution and introgressive hybridization in wheatears. J. Evol. Biol. 32: 100-110. doi: 10.1111/jeb.13401
  • Sokolovskis, K, G Bianco, M Willemoes, D Solovyeva, S Bensch and S Åkesson. 2018. Ten grams and 13,000 km on the wing – route choice in willow warblers Phylloscopus trochilus yakutensis migrating from Far East Russia to East Africa. Movement Ecol. 6(20): https://doi.org/10.1186/s40462-018-0138-0
  • Sokolovskis, K, M Lundberg, M Liedvogel, D Solovyeva, S Åkesson M Willemoes and S Bensch. 2019. Phenotypic and genetic characterization of the East Siberian Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus yakutensis Ticehurst, 1935) in relation to the European subspecies. J. Orn. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-019-01653-y

Jem Babbington et al fill one of the many considerable gaps in knowledge of Reed Warbler taxa by confirming the identity of mangrove-breeding Red Sea populations. Brian Meadows’ observations from the 1970s have at long last been justified!

Jérôme Fuchs et al in a far-reaching molecular research analysis using both mitochondrial and nuclear markers for 34 recognized species of shrike, found, inter alia, that Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus and Red-backed Shrike L. collurio were not closely related, that Daurian Shrike L. isabellinus and Turkestan Shrike L. phoenicuroides were not closely related, and that none of the last three had split from Brown Shrike, but instead probably had a common ancestor. In addition, with regard to the findings on the large grey shrike complex of Olsson et al 2010 (qv below), their underlying application of the Olsson et al methodology was confirmed: “…and we will not discuss these relationships again as the original results were corroborated here.” We interpret that as additional validation of the ORL’s approach on the large grey shrike taxa.

Manuel Schweizer and Reto Burri produced a lucid and elegant summary of the deconstruction of the ‘traditional’ Mourning Wheatear Oenenthe lugens complex, teasing out the subtleties in style.

Manuel Schweizer et al not only found that Western and Eastern Black-eared Wheatears were not closely related (O. hispanica, O. melanoleuca), but neither were Cyprus Wheatear and Pied Wheatear (O. cypriaca, O. pleschanka). However, Cyprus Wheatear was found to be a sister species to Eastern Black-eared Wheatear. In other words, the strong plumage similarities of the black-eared wheatears and of Cyprus and Pied Wheatears are examples of parallel evolution!

Sokolovskis et al 2018, by datalogging the yakutensis subspecies of Willow Warbler from easternmost Russia, discovered that it flies a 13,000km route to Mozambique over 3-4 months, returning slightly faster.

Sokolovskis et al 2019 conclude that yakutensis breeds east of the Urals to the Bering Strait and that acredula breeds west of the Urals, but migrates to further west in Africa than yakutensis. Both sspp pass through the OSME Region.

ORL Summary of changes reference:

Olsson, U, P Alström, L Svensson, M Aliabadian and P Sundberg. 2010. The Lanius excubitor (Aves, Passeriformes) conundrum—Taxonomic dilemma when molecular and non-molecular data tell different stories. Mol. Phyl. & Evol. 55(2): 347-357.