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These recommendations of the Taxonomic Sub-Committee of the BOU Records Committee take effect immediately for the purposes of the British List. Species-level decisions are based on criteria outlined by Helbig et al. (2002, Guidelines for assigning species rank; Ibis144: 518–525). The second report of the Sub-Committee was published in Ibis146: 153–157.

Canada Goose Branta canadensis

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Phylogeographical analyses of mitochondrial DNA restriction fragments (Shields & Wilson 1987. Evolution41: 662–666; Shields 1988. Proc. Int. Ornithol. Congr.19: 1889–1895; Van Wagner & Baker 1990. J. Mol. Evol.31: 373–382; Quinn et al. 1991. Auk108: 585–593) and mitochondrial DNA sequences (Quinn et al. 1991; Baker & Marshall 1997. Avian Molecular Evolution and Systematics: 51–82. San Diego: Academic Press; Paxinos et al. 2002. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA99: 1399–1404; Scribner et al. 2003a. Auk120: 889–907; Scribner et al. 2003b. Condor105: 771–782) and microsatellites (Scribner et al. 2003b) suggest that small-bodied, arctic-breeding populations (hutchinsii, leucopareia, minima and taverneri) and large-bodied populations (canadensis, fulva, interior, maxima, moffitti, occidentalis and parvipes) form reciprocally monophyletic groups which are genetically highly divergent. A morphometric study (Van Wagner & Baker 1990) also recovered the small- and large-bodied forms as separate groups. A study of mitochondrial DNA sequences indicated that the two groups are not each other's closest relatives (Paxinos et al. 2002); the small-bodied clade formed a sister-group relationship with Barnacle Goose B. leucopsis and the large-bodied clade formed a sister-group relationship with a group of endemic Hawaiian geese, of which only one representative remains extant (Hawaiian Goose or Nene, B. sandvicensis). Fieldwork on Baffin Island (Soper 1946. Auk63: 1–24), Southhampton Island, Nunavut, Canada (Sutton 1932. Mem. Carnegie Mus.12, part 2, sect. 2: 1–275) and in the Yukon Delta, Alaska (Conover 1926. Auk43: 162–180; Brandt 1943. Alaska Bird Trails. Cleveland, OH: Bird Research Foundation) has documented close contact and sympatric breeding of members of the small- and large-bodied groups, apparently without interbreeding, and differences between these groups in arrival date, nesting habitat and nest structure. The two groups are therefore best treated as separate species:

  • • 
    Greater CanadaGooseB. canadensis (polytypic, with subspecies canadensis, fulva, interior, maxima, moffitti, occidentalis and parvipes)
  • • 
    Lesser Canada GooseB. hutchinsii (polytypic, with subspecies hutchinsii, leucopareia, minima and taverneri)

Greater Canada Goose is currently in Category C of the British List. Several records of Greater and Lesser Canada Geese are currently under review for possible admission to Category A.

A manuscript on the taxonomy of Canada geese has been prepared and will be published in due course.

Greater Scaup Aythya marila

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Greater Scaup was treated as monotypic in the Status of Birds in Britain and Ireland (BOU 1971), a change that was introduced without explanation. We recommend that the species be treated as polytypic, with subspecies A. m. marila and A. m. nearctica, following Banks (1986. Wilson Bull.89: 433–444). The name mariloides, which has previously been applied to populations of the species within the range of nearctica, is unavailable as it was attached to specimens of Lesser Scaup A. affinis. The form that occurs in Britain is A. m. marila.

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Melanitta nigra is currently treated as a polytypic species with subspecies M. n. nigra and M. n. americana. A morphological analysis of seaducks (Tribe Mergini) concluded that these subspecies are sister taxa (Livezey 1995. Condor97: 233–255). Adult male nigra and americana differ diagnostically on the basis of bill shape and the extent of yellow pigment in the bill (Dwight 1914. Auk3: 293–308. Dement’ev & Gladkov 1952. Birds of the USSR; Cramp & Simmons 1977. Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa, Volume 1. Oxford: OUP; Astins 1992. Birding World5: 58–59). Occasional examples of nigra with unusually large extent of yellow in the bill are thought to refer to second calendar year (subadult) birds (Cramp & Simmons 1977). The shape of the nostrils in male nigra and americana is also different (Dwight 1914. Auk31: 293–308; Dean 1989. Brit. Birds82: 615–616). There are clear diagnostic differences between the male courtship calls of nigra and americana (Sangster, Wilson Bull. in revision). These differences are potentially important because both the call and the bill of scoters are significant components of the display repertoire, which may form the basis of female mating preference (Myres 1959. Wilson Bull. 71: 159–168). Differences in the structure and coloration of bills of female nigra and americana have also been reported (Waring 1993. Birding World6: 78–79). On the basis of diagnostic differences in male courtship call and bill structure, it is recommended that two monotypic species should be recognized.

  • • 
    Common ScoterM. nigra (monotypic)
  • • 
    Black ScoterM. americana (monotypic).

Both species are on Category A of the British List.

Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Melanitta fusca is currently treated as a polytypic species with subspecies M. f. fusca (North Europe east to the River Yenisey), M. f. deglandi (Nearctic) and M. f. stejnegeri (Asia, east of the Yenisey). A morphological analysis of seaducks (Tribe Mergini) concluded that deglandi and fusca are sister taxa (Livezey 1995. Condor97: 233–255), but stejnegeri was not included in this analysis. Adult male fusca is diagnosably distinct from deglandi and stejnegeri on the basis of both bill shape and coloration, and on the shape of the nostrils (Dwight 1914. Auk31: 293–308; Proctor & Pullan 1997. Birding World10: 56–61). All age and sex classes of fusca are diagnosably distinct from deglandi and stejnegeri on the basis of the contours of feathering at the base of the bill (Garðarsson 1997. Bliki18: 65–67). Although the described sample sizes are small, male fusca and deglandi are reported to differ diagnostically in tracheal structure and (presumably as a consequence of this) courtship vocalizations (Miller 1926. Am. Mus. Nov.243: 1–5; Cramp & Simmons 1977. Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa, Vol. 1). On average, the white subocular mark of adult male fusca is smaller than that of deglandi and stejnegeri (Dement’ev & Gladkov 1952. Birds of the USSR, Moscow; Dwight 1914; Proctor & Pullan 1997). On the basis of diagnostic differences in bill structure and pigmentation, and the other morphological differences described above, it is recommended that two species should be recognized:

  • • 
    Velvet ScoterM. fusca (monotypic)
  • • 
    White-winged ScoterM. deglandi (polytypic, with subspecies deglandi and stejnegeri)

Velvet Scoter is on Category A of the British List. A further decision on possible specific status for M. d. stejnegeri has been pended awaiting analysis of vocalizations for these taxa. A manuscript on species limits in scoters has been submitted and will be published in due course.

Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

A recent molecular analysis indicates that the Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis and Audubon's Shearwater P. lherminieri complex comprises three monophyletic groups, which are distributed in the north Atlantic Ocean, the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the southern Atlantic Ocean and Australian and New Zealand seas (Austin et al. 2004. Auk121: 847–864). The three forms breeding in the tropical and subtropical parts of the Atlantic Ocean (P. l. lherminieri, P. a. baroli, P. a. boydi) that were included in this study formed a monophyletic group that is not closely related to the other forms of the complex (including nominate P. a. assimilis). The three tropical and subtropical Atlantic taxa are best treated as two species:

  • • 
    Macaronesian ShearwaterP. baroli (polytypic, with subspecies baroli and boydi)
  • • 
    Audubon's ShearwaterP. lherminieri (monotypic)

The taxonomic status of P. b. boydi remains under consideration pending study of recently collected sound recordings of that taxon. The only form that has been shown to occur in Britain is Puffinus baroli baroli.

Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Following the publication of a number of phylogenetic studies (Wink & Seibold 1996. Biología y conservación de las rapaces Mediterráneas: 335–344; Wink & Sauer-Gürth 2000. Raptors at Risk: 135–147; Wink 2000. Raptors at Risk: 831–844; Roulin & Wink 2004. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 81: 565–578; Wink & Sauer-Gürth 2004. Raptors Worldwide: 483–498; Bunce et al. 2005. Publ. Lib. Sci.3(1): 44–46; Helbig et al. 2005. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 35: 147–164; Lerner & Mindell 2005. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. in press) a reappraisal of the taxonomy of Hieraaetus and Aquila eagles has been undertaken. These studies indicate that the species currently included in Hieraaetus and Aquila do not form separate monophyletic groups. After consideration, we propose to treat the Western Palearctic species as follows:

  • • 
    Greater Spotted EagleAquila clanga
  • • 
    Lesser Spotted EagleAquila pomarina
  • • 
    Booted EagleAquila pennata
  • • 
    Golden EagleAquila chrysaetos
  • • 
    Verreaux's EagleAquila verreauxii
  • • 
    Bonelli's EagleAquila fasciata
  • • 
    Steppe EagleAquila nipalensis
  • • 
    Tawny EagleAquila rapax
  • • 
    Eastern Imperial EagleAquila heliaca
  • • 
    Spanish Imperial EagleAquila adalbertii

Two of these species are currently on the British List: Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga (Category B) and Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos (Category A). In addition, Booted Eagle Aquila pennata is included in Category D.

Herring Gull Larus argentatus

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Yellow-legged Herring Gulls of the Mediterranean and Atlantic populations L. a. michahellis and L. a. atlantis are very similar to each other, and are reported to be diagnosably distinct from eastern Mediterranean and Caspian populations L. a. cachinnans, from Herring Gulls from northwest Europe L. a. argentatus and L. a. argenteus and from Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus, in immature and adult plumages, in coloration of bare parts (Dubois & Yésou 1984. Br. Birds77: 344–348; Klein & Gruber 1997. Limicola11: 49–75; Klein & Buchheim 1997. Vogelwelt118: 61–70; Dubois 2001. Birding World14: 293–304) and in vocalizations (Teyssèdre 1983. Oiseau53: 43–52; Teyssèdre 1984. Behaviour88: 13–33; Panov et al. 1991. Zool. Zh. 70: 73–89; Filchagov 1993. Br. Birds86: 550–560; Filchagov 1999. Zool. Zh.78: 349–357). L. a. michahellis, in common with many other gull taxa, has experienced relatively recent range expansion and breeds sympatrically with L. a. argenteus in western Europe (Nicolau-Guillaumet 1977. Alauda45: 53–73; Marion et al. 1985. Alauda53: 81–87; Yésou 1991. Ibis133: 256–263; Ogilvie et al. 2003. Br. Birds96, 476–519) and in close proximity to L. a. cachinnans in Romania (Klein & Buchheim 1997). L. a. argenteus and L. a. michahellis/atlantis fulfil diagnosability and other criteria for separate specific rank as defined in Helbig et al. (2002. Ibis144: 518–525).

L. a. michahellis and L. a. armenicus are diagnosable by a combination of several characters (bill markings, wing-tip pattern, biometrics and mitochondrial DNA), although intermediate birds occur in a zone of contact in central Turkey (Liebers & Helbig 1999. Limicola13: 281–321). Molecular differentiation between L. a. michahellis and L. a. armenicus is substantial and gene flow appears to be limited and unilateral (Liebers & Helbig 1999). Detailed molecular studies based on analyses of mitochondrial DNA further suggest that L. a. michahellis/atlantis and L. a. armenicus are distinct but closely related but are much more distantly related to L. a. cachinnans and L. a. argentatus/argenteus (Liebers & Helbig 1999; Liebers et al. 2001. Mol. Ecol. 10: 2447–2462; Crochet et al. 2002. Auk119: 603–620; Liebers et al. 2004. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B271: 893–902). Treating michahellis and armenicus as largely allopatric taxa, they fulfil species criteria 3 or 4.2 defined in Helbig et al. (2002. Ibis144: 518–525).

The combined evidence of morphology, vocalizations and molecular phylogenetics strongly indicates that L. a. michahellis (including atlantis), L. a. armenicus and L. a. argentatus (including argenteus) are best treated as separate species:

  • • 
    Yellow-legged GullL. michahellis (polytypic)
  • • 
    Armenian GullL. armenicus (monotypic)
  • • 
    Herring GullL. argentatus (polytypic)

Herring Gull and Yellow-legged Gull are on Category A of the British List. The taxonomic status of L. a. smithsonianus and L. a. cachinnans is still under review. A useful summary of the taxonomic literature on the Larus argentatus – fuscus complex was published by Dubois (2002. Dutch Birding24: 271–298).

Generic limits of terns

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

A molecular phylogeny of the terns based on mitochondrial DNA sequences (Bridge et al. 2005. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 35: 459–469) strongly supports the monophyly of several species groups, including the brown-winged terns (‘Onychoprion’), little terns (‘Sternula’), marsh terns (Chlidonias) and crested terns (‘Thalasseus’). Monophyly of the typical black-capped terns (Sterna s.s.) could not be demonstrated, owing to the uncertain position of Forster's Tern S. forsteri and Trudeau's Tern S. trudeaui. The crested terns and typical black-capped terns were identified as sister-groups, with the marsh terns, Inca Tern Larosterna inca, Caspian and Gull-billed terns, and Large-billed Tern as their successive outgroups. The little terns and brown-winged terns were placed outside this group, which means that ‘Sterna’, as currently recognized (Voous 1977. List of Recent Holarctic Bird Species), is a paraphyletic group. Therefore, a revision of the terns in which 12 genera are recognized was recommended. However, the evidence for adoption of ‘Thalasseus’ for the crested terns is not strong. With this exception, we propose to follow the generic limits outlined in Bridge et al. (2005). As a result, the taxa on the British List are to be listed as follows:

  • • 
    Aleutian TernOnychoprion aleutica
  • • 
    Sooty TernOnychoprion fuscata
  • • 
    Bridled TernOnychoprion anaethetus
  • • 
    Little TernSternula albifrons
  • • 
    Gull-billed TernGelochelidon nilotica
  • • 
    Caspian TernHydroprogne caspia
  • • 
    Whiskered TernChlidonias hybrida
  • • 
    Black TernChlidonias niger
  • • 
    White-winged TernChlidonias leucopterus
  • • 
    Sandwich TernSterna sandvicensis
  • • 
    Royal TernSterna maxima
  • • 
    Lesser Crested TernSterna bengalensis
  • • 
    Forster's TernSterna forsteri
  • • 
    Common TernSterna hirundo
  • • 
    Roseate TernSterna dougallii
  • • 
    Arctic TernSterna paradisaea

Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Geographical variation in the Atlantic Puffin is clinal, with size increasing with latitude (Vaurie 1965. Birds of the Palearctic Fauna II: Non-passeriformes; Cramp 1985. Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Vol. IV). The three currently recognized races, nominate arctica, grabae and naumanni, are differentiated on the basis of wing length, bill length and bill depth. The clinal size variation between the putative subspecies is paralleled at more local levels: birds from north Iceland have longer wings than those from the south (Petersen 1976. Ornis Scand.7: 185–192; BWP); birds from northwest Scotland are bigger than those from the southeast (Harris 1979. Bird Study26: 259–266); and wing length increases clinally north along the Norwegian coast (Pethon 1967. Nytt Mag. Zool. 14: 84–95). The functional link of these correlations is not clear, but they are certainly consistent. Delimitation of races appears largely to be arbitrary. We recommend that the Atlantic Puffin be treated as monotypic.

Generic limits of swallows

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

A recent molecular phylogeny indicates that the genus Hirundo (sensu Voous 1977) is a paraphyletic taxon (Sheldon et al. 2005. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 35: 254–270). Two groups, the ‘red-rumped swallows’ and the ‘cliff swallows’, are not closely related to the other species of Hirundo but form the sister-group of the house swallows Delichon. The ‘rock swallows’Ptyonoprogne are the sister-group of Hirundo s.s. These relationships were strongly supported by the data. On the basis of this evidence, Red-rumped Swallow is included in Cecropis and becomes Cecropis daurica. Cliff Swallow is placed in Petrochelidon and becomes Petrochelidon pyrrhonota. The species on the British List should be listed in the following sequence:

  • • 
    Sand MartinRiparia riparia
  • • 
    Tree SwallowTachycineta bicolor
  • • 
    Eurasian Crag MartinPtyonoprogne rupestris
  • • 
    Barn SwallowHirundo rustica
  • • 
    House MartinDelichon urbicum
  • • 
    Red-rumped SwallowCecropis daurica
  • • 
    Cliff SwallowPetrochelidon pyrrhonota

Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Molecular phylogenetic evidence indicates that Anthus novaeseelandiae does not represent a monophyletic group of taxa (Voelker 1999. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 11: 84–94), but that richardi and rufulus (including malayensis) are closely related. Vocalizations of richardi and rufulus are consistently different throughout their respective ranges (Alström & Mild 2003. Pipits & Wagtails of Europe, Asia and North America). Divergence of mitochondrial DNA sequences of richardi and rufulus is similar to that of pairs of taxa that are currently regarded as species (Voelker 1999). Geographical variation in the richardi group is slight and seemingly mainly clinal (Alström & Mild 2003). It is recommended that this taxon be treated as a monotypic species:

  • • 
    Richard's PipitA. richardi (monotypic)

Richard's Pipit is in category A of the British List.

Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Recent research into morphological, vocal and molecular differentiation in the Pallas's Leaf Warbler complex (Alström & Olsson 1990. Bull. Br. Ornithol. Club110: 38–43; Alström et al. 1995. Bull. Br. Ornithol. Club117: 177–193; Irwin et al. 2001. Ibis143: 233–247; Martens et al. 2004. J. Ornithol. 145: 206–222) has shown that Siberian populations (Phylloscopus p. proregulus) differ diagnosably from populations in west and southwest China (P. p. forresti), the western (Phylloscopus p. simlaensis) and eastern Himalayas (P. p. chloronotos), and Gansu and Qinghai, China (P. p. kansuensis). Closely related to this complex is P. yunnanenis. This species was originally described as new (Alström et al. 1992. Ibis134: 329–344) but the name yunnanenis has priority (Martens & Eck 1995. Bonn. Zool. Monogr. 38; Martens et al. 2004). Available evidence supports the recognition of up to five species in this complex: Chinese/La Touche's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus yunnanensis, Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus, Gansu Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus kansuensis, Sichuan Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus forresti and Lemon-rumped Warbler/Simla Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus chloronotus (polytypic, with subspecies simlaensis and chloronotus). The taxon on the British List is Phylloscopus proregulus. It is recommended that this taxon be treated as monotypic:

  • • 
    Pallas's Leaf WarblerP. proregulus (monotypic)

Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Firecrest is currently regarded as polytypic with three or four subspecies: nominate R. i. ignicapilla, R. i. madeirensis from Madeira and R. i. balearicus from the Balearic Islands and North Africa, although the North African populations have also been separated as R. i. laeneni. Subspecies madeirensis has a duller orange crown, shorter supercilium and longer bill than other forms. Päckert et al. (2003. Evolution57: 616–629) performed a phylogenetic analysis based on 580 bp of the cytochrome b gene sequence, which suggested that although balearicus and nominate ignicapilla are genetically very similar, madeirensis is well separated. The genetic differentiation between madeirensis and the other firecrest taxa was similar to that between Parus major and Parus monticolus, which were used as outgroups in the analysis. An analysis of the songs and calls of madeirensis concluded that songs of madeirensis and nominate ignicapilla differ, a conclusion which is supported by playback studies (Päckert et al. 2001. J. Ornithol.142: 16–29). The song repertoire of madeirensis males is reduced to one song type. Songs and calls of madeirensis do not evoke a notable territorial response from nominate birds, although madeirensis individuals do respond to central and southeast European song types. The song structure of balearicus was found not to differ significantly from that of nominate ignicapilla.

On the basis of diagnostic differences in both morphology and vocal signals, together with significant genetic divergence, it is recommended that madeirensis be treated as a separate species.

  • • 
    FirecrestR. ignicapilla (polytypic, with subspecies ignicapilla, balearicus)
  • • 
    Madeira FirecrestR. madeirensis (monotypic)

Only Firecrest (s.s.) is on the British List. A manuscript on the taxonomy of Regulus has been prepared and will be submitted in due course.

Generic limits of tits

  1. Top of page
  2. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
  3. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
  4. Common Scoter Melanitta nigra
  5. Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca
  6. Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata
  7. Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis
  8. Western Palearctic taxa of Aquila and Hieraaetus
  9. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
  10. Generic limits of terns
  11. Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica
  12. Generic limits of swallows
  13. Richard's Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae
  14. Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
  15. Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
  16. Generic limits of tits

Molecular phylogenetic analysis of the tits (Paridae) based on mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences (Gill et al. 2005. Auk122: 121–143) suggests the existence of six major clades among species traditionally included in Parus: blue tits (‘Cyanistes’), great tits (Parus s.s.), North American crested tits (‘Baeolophus’), Eurasian crested tits (‘Lophophanes’), coal tits (‘Periparus’) and chickadees (‘Poecile’). The data indicate that the blue tits (P. caeruleus, P. cyanus) branched off before all other species of Parus (s.l.). However, their phylogenetic position relative to Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus and Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea differed between analyses. Pseudopodoces humilis, previously misclassified in Corvidae, was sister to the great tits in one analysis but basal to all tits except ‘Cyanistes’, Sylviparus and Melanochlora in another. The position of Pseudopodoces humilis among tits was previously suggested by James et al. (2003. Ibis145: 185–202) based on morphological and preliminary mitochondrial DNA data. Gill et al. (2005) proposed to recognize nine genera of tits. They argued that, in addition to Pseudopodoces, Sylviparus and Melanochlora, the six groups of Parus should each be elevated to generic level. Recognizing (i) that Parus would not be monophyletic if the status quo is maintained, (ii) that inclusion of Pseudopodoces, Sylviparus and Melanochlora in Parus would result in an even more diverse taxon, and (iii) that Parus already is one of the largest genera of birds, we have adopted the arrangement proposed by Gill et al. (2005). The tits on the British List should be listed as follows:

  • • 
    Blue TitCyanistes caeruleus
  • • 
    Great TitParus major
  • • 
    Crested TitLophophanes cristatus
  • • 
    Coal TitPeriparus ater
  • • 
    Willow TitPoecile montanus
  • • 
    Marsh TitPoecile palustris

We thank P. Alström, K. Colver, C. Kehoe, J. Martens, M. Masuda, R. Ranft, L. Svensson, H. Ueda, O. Veprintseva and members of the BOURC for their help and apologise to any others that we have omitted to mention.