Monday, March 5, 2012

What in the world is an Ardenna shearwater?

In Steve Howell's new seabird guide, Petrels, Albatrosses, and Storm-Petrels of North America: A Photographic Guide, he notes that seabird taxonomy is in a state of flux. He goes on to call the classification of the American Ornithologitsts' Union "particularly anachronistic." Calling out North America's most influential ornithological society as 'behind the times' is probably only something Howell could do.

Since there wasn't any single authoritative "modern" taxonomy to North American seabirds, Howell read all the scientific papers and chose a logical taxonomy. Thus, when you read his book, you'll find new species, genera, and even families of seabirds!

Howell's book divides shearwaters into 3 genera instead of the usual 2 to which we have been accustomed.

The shearwater genus Calonectris is applied to the Cory's-like shearwaters, those that are brownish with yellow bills: Cory's, Scopoli's, Cape Verde, and Streaked shearwaters.

All the world's remaining shearwaters traditionally have been combined into the genus Puffinus. Howell, is the first to create a North American field guide that separates the remaining shearwaters into the smaller black-and-white shearwaters (remaining in the genus Puffinus) from the larger shearwaters in the genus Ardenna, suggested by Penhallurick and Wink in a 2004 article in the Emu and adopted in many Australian bird lists and websites. British and American ornithological societies have yet to adopt this proposal. But now that Howell has introduced this guide you are sure to see more of this new taxonomy.

1 comment:

  1. Taxonomy - always a challenge for a "hobby birder" like me !