The AOU’s 54th supplement to its North American bird checklist will be out next month. Based on the proposals submitted to date, here are five proposed splits or lumps U.S. birders should watch for:

1. Whence ‘Barolo’ Shearwater?

Will the ‘Barolo’ Shearwater of the Azores, Canaries, Selvages, and Madeira in the Atlantic be split from its current position as a subspecies of Little Shearwater (Puffinus assimilis baroli)? If so, will it be given full species status or be lumped as a subspecies of Audubon’s Shearwater?

2. Tern Split?

Will the New World form(s) of Sandwich Tern be split as Cabot’s Tern (Thalasseus acuflavida)?

Sandwich (Cabot's) Tern, Thalasseus sandvicensis acuflavida

Sandwich (Cabot’s) Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis acuflavida) by David J. Ringer

3. How Many Nuthatches?

We wrote last year about a study that suggests the White-breasted Nuthatch is actually a complex of up to four species. The AOU considered a proposal to effect a two-, three-, or four-way split of this complex, with proposal author Carla Cicero recommending a two-way (east-west) split. Whatever else happens, please, by everything that sane and beautiful, let’s not end up with “Eastern White-breasted Nuthatch” and “Western White-breasted Nuthatch” as English names in such an event. (Photo above by Matt MacGillivray)

4. Lumping Rosy-Finches?

One proposal, citing a 2009 paper, suggests that North America’s three rosy-finch species be lumped into Leucosticte tephrocotis.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis) by Corey Finger

5. Split Sage Sparrow

We know that this one is happening for sure because of a followup proposal that begins thus: “Now that we have voted to split Sage Sparrow into two species, we need to consider English names for the daughter species.” Looks as if the names might be Sagebrush Sparrow and Bell’s Sparrow, but we shall see.

What are your thoughts on the above? And any other decisions you’re looking forward to this year?

Written by David
David J. Ringer is exploring the world one bird at a time. His fascination with birds and nature began at the age of four or five, and he now works full time in conservation. He is a writer and communicator whose day jobs have taken him to six continents and more than 25 countries, including Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kenya, and Cameroon. Follow him on Twitter at @RealDJRinger.