Version 2.10 of the IOC’s taxonomy came out months ago and I’m only just getting round to processing it. I had noticed in passing that fork-tailed swift (Apus pacificus) had spun off subspecies, largely in Asia, so that didn’t affect my Australian sightings.
What I had missed was the split of America’s northern harrier from Europe’s hen harrier. This was far more significant since it generated an armchair tick for my world list. Now I can implement version 2.8 when eastern great egret was reinstated with great white egret; the two changes cancel each other out. Net effect: still on 1,073 with this month’s squacco heron.
Apart from splitting and lumping, the IOC also renames and has done the ultimate by renaming itself to the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU). It’s probably a good idea in this Olympic year. I have the devil’s job of crossing wires with sporting geeks.
So, the IOU (will we get financial confusion instead?) has lately published version 3.1, which splits a couple of Australia’s quail-thrushes. The cinnamon in particular has spawned Nullarbor quail-thrush for its quite distinctive western population. This doesn’t affect the one sighting I had at Umberumberka, NSW.
The latest list now also includes 126 extinctions known from the last few centuries. That’s more than 1% of the 10,470 species otherwise described. In blunt terms it’s a mass extinction, being at least 100 times higher than the background rate. Makes you proud to be human.