[CT Birds] On this Date (1/25)

Dennis Varza dennisvz at optonline.net
Mon Jan 25 06:54:16 EST 2010

1875	200 Snow Bunting	Portland
1987	Little Gull	Old Saybrook, South Cove
1988	Spotted Towhee	Colchester
1988	Thayer's Gull 	West Haven Land Fill
1992	Barrow's Goldeneye	Westport, Sherwood Is. St. Pk.

Since things are a little slow today I want to make a comment for the  
"Newbies" (haven' been birding before the mid 80's)

Deciding what is a species or just a subspecies, until modern DNA  
techniques, was subjective. The process from going from one species  
to two is a continuum  hence drawing a line is a matter of opinion  
for species midway in the process. People who decide such thing fall  
into two camps Lumpers and Splitters. And like political parties they  
each have their ups and downs. In the 70's Lumpers ruled and we lost  
many species from our life lists. In general they were eastern and  
western forms of the same genetic background. Yellow/Red Shafted  
Flicker became Northern Flicker, Baltimore/Bullocks Oriole became  
Northern Oriole Rufous-sided/Spotted Towhee became Eastern Towhee  
etc. Over the past 20 years Splitters have ascended and some of the  
lumps have been split again, and new splits made (Saltmarsh/Nelson's  
Sparrow). This has been good for the field guide business because  
every change meant a new and "up to date" to be had every few years.  
It has been tough on birders trying to keep track of what is a  
species or not. And imagine the mess it makes of your field notes, or  
the poor collection manager in a museum.

So, that explains why different guides (and birders) of different  
ages use different terminology. (don't forget the just plain name  
changes (Swainson/Olive-backed Thrush, Long-tailed/Oldsquaw Duck) For  
myself,  I have trouble keeping track of some of the less frequently  
experienced  changes. Which brings be to the point of this rambling.  
Several weeks ago a Spotted Towhee was reported in some old banding  
records (which turned out to be a typo). Today one was reported in  
Colchester, and for the life of me I couldn't recall if the lump  
stuck or was re-split.

According to the AOU Checklist and supplements to 2007 they are split	
(American Ornithologist's Union the official arbitrator of what is a  
species or not)

Pipilo maculatus Spotted Towhee
Pipilo erythrophthalmus Eastern Towhee (red-eyed towhee is an old  
name I found in the literature)

I assume Greg Hanisek and Mark Szantyr will have more to say.


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