[CT Birds] AOU order change

David F Provencher david.f.provencher at dom.com
Wed Jul 25 10:35:02 EDT 2012

The points Greg makes are good ones. Taxonomic order is really just our best educated arrangement of how (in this case birds) organisms are evolutionarily related. Superficially it may seem two species are closely related either by appearance or behavior. However convergent evolution or phenological plasticity (the modification of behavior within a species due to environmental influences) may be the real reason they appear related. So behavior and/or appearance can be very misleading. But of course these characteristics were heavily used in the early days of taxonomic ordering. It seemed logical at the time that if two species were carnivorous and hunted on the wing they must be closely related. We now have much more technologically sophisticated methods for delving into the evolutionary past (and present), and we better understand how very different species can evolve in very similar ways, and how different behaviors can evolve within a species. So taxonomic re-ordering is simply trying to improve/correct previous revisions of our understanding. It should also be noted that were are talking about reshuffling with a taxonomic "order," so by definition we are already starting with closely related organisms!

But if all one cares about is enjoying birds and birding, what difference does it make if Falcons and Parrots share a closer ancestry than Falcons and Buteos? It doesn't make it any easier (unfortunately) or harder (thankfully) to identify them. And just because its ancestor might have eaten fruits or nuts, it certainly shouldn't lesson the thrill of seeing a Prairie Falcon swoop down on a ground squirrel. Though the ground squirrel might wish it still ate fruit!


David Provencher

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