Taxonomy in Flux
I’ve made numerous reference to this detailed website
and associated checklist
as, for me, it’s the most useful and most up to date source of current bird taxonomy information available on the internet. Whilst it’s not one of the major official authorities, as it’s more of a personal project controlled by one man John Boyd, it is duly recognised by the IOC and others. Categorisation is explained and justified, but as changes are usually way in front of any official update as they’re not subjected to a debate and approval process, sometimes it’s necessary to be a bit cautious before adopting - please refer to my 'taxonomic updates record'
for further information.
(International Ornithological Congress)
The IOC website
provides open-access resource data in respect of its World Bird List via various downloadable lists and spreadsheets. I periodically refer to the latest updates
as the web-based list is reviewed on a quarterly basis, rather than annually like the eBird/Clements and BirdLife International checklists that I referred to in my 'understanding bird orders and families'
write-up. Not only does the IOC list complement three other primary world bird lists (Clements, Howard & Moore and HBW/BirdLife), but it is now going to be adopted by the BOU (British Ornithologist’s Union) from January 2018.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology maintains the eBird/Clements checklist
, which is the primary list adopted in North America as all updates reflect official name changes as approved by the AOU (American Ornithologists’ Union) for their checklist area.
provides rich and useful information on species, sites (IBA’s), countries and much more. It also allows download of its own separately maintained BirdLife Taxonomic Checklist
, which not only includes scientific and common names etc as you would expect, but also the species latest IUCN Red List
(British Ornithologist’s Union)
The BOU is responsible for maintaining the British List
, which is only republished every five years or so and, therefore, has to be periodically supplemented by interim reports known as BOURC’s. This procedure will no doubt change in the future once the IOC list is adopted, as noted above.
And here, a couple of related websites that also need a mention .....
(British Trust for Ornithology)
Not to be confused with the British Ornithologist’s Union, the BTO is an independent research institute that among other things supplies long-term monitoring data on the status of UK birds. It has a useful 'bird facts'
section that can be searched, or accessed via their simplified version of the BOU British List
. They also have a very comprehensive series of bird identification videos
that can prove very useful at times.
- the world bird database
This is an ambitious and extensive free-access database system for all the birds of the world, currently containing over 18 million records, with information on taxonomy and distribution of the species. The website
is managed by Bird Studies Canada, co-partner of BirdLife International. Avibase also have their own Flickr group
of which I’m a member. The website and the associated Flickr group are cleverly linked as the website has a list
of all members ranked by the number of properly indexed bird photos on their photostream. Not only does the list link to that member’s Flickr account, but it also produces a separate and very useful listing of all the valid photos, by scientific and common names, and with the number of indexed photos for each of those species. Obviously your position on the list fluctuates, but the last time I looked ’tickspics’ was ranked at number 138 with 1538 valid photos of 407 different species. And that personal list
, which is accessed from your species count, then provides even more trickery as you can click on a species scientific name to take you to yet another page showing thumbnails of all the photos of that species that you have on your photostream. Additional functionality then allows you to look at all contributor’s photos of that species, with all thumbnails linking through to the actual photo.
: I said in my preamble to this section that the only problem with the internet is that there is so much information available that you can easily be overwhelmed by it all. So although there were a few more useful resources that I could have added to this particular page I’m not going to as it would just be information overload.
Whilst I’ve listed a few of my favourite bird field guides and reference books on the ‘species’ page of this InfoData section, the following book specifically relates to taxonomy :
Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names
Written by James Jobling and produced by Christopher Helm
Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2011 - hardback, medium format, 432 pages (ISBN : 978-1-4081-2051-4)
If you refer to the paragraph about ‘scientific names’ in my 'understanding taxonomy listings'
write-up and want to know more about this particular subject, or would simply like to have a comprehensive dictionary on your bookshelf to explain the origin and meaning of a bird’s generic, specific and subspecific names, then this is without doubt the book you’ll need. I’m sure many would find this type of reference book very hard going, but if you’ve got an enquiring mind and an interest in how a bird’s scientific name is derived you’ll find the investment worthwhile.