[CT Birds] On this Date (1/25) Spotted Towhee
ghanisek at rep-am.com
Tue Jan 26 22:38:33 EST 2010
Regarding Dennis' question, the wide-ranging N.A. bird long known as
Rufous-sided Towhee was split into the 2 species noted by Dennis (Spotted
Towhee and Eastern Towhee) in 1995. The current taxonomic thinking (always
subject to revision) divides Spotted Towhee into 9 subspecies in the western
U.S. and another 12 in Mexico and Guatemala. The Eastern Towhee is divided
into 4 subspecies.
Since the split, Connecticut has documented one record of Spotted Towhee.
The following account appeared in the 12th Report of the Avian Records
Committee of Connecticut:
"SPOTTED TOWHEE (Pipilo maculatus) A first state record for this recently
split species was established when one was found on 31 Dec 2005 at Groton
Long Point on the New London Christmas Bird Count (06-08 Scott Tsagarakis*,
Mark Szantyr ‡, Ryan Sayers ‡). It was seen my many observers until at least
mid-February. Plumage details ruled out the identification as a hybrid with
Eastern Towhee and suggested the bird was a first-year female of the Great
Plains race arcticus."
As is unfortunately often the case, a few older reports of Spotted Towhees,
from the time when they were not considered a full species, are lacking in
----- Original Message -----
From: "Dennis Varza" <dennisvz at optonline.net>
To: "Posting Bird List" <ctbirds at lists.ctbirding.org>; "Jorge de Leon"
<ornithology.library at yale.edu>; "Susan Hochgraf" <susan.hochgraf at uconn.edu>
Sent: Monday, January 25, 2010 6:54 AM
Subject: [CT Birds] On this Date (1/25)
> 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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