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Friday, July 07, 2006

Brand new species

The latest edition of the American Ornithologists' Union bird checklist is out, announcing a new species of grouse for North America--the bird formerly known as Blue Grouse is now two species, Dusky Grouse and Sooty Grouse. Actually, these two birds were considered separate species by the AOU in the 1920s, but were lumped together as Blue Grouse in 1944. New DNA evidence suggests that they really are separate species, with the Sooty Grouse living in the coniferous forests of the coastal Pacific Northwest, and the Dusky Grouse living in montane forests of the Rocky Mountains.

So, for a while at least, all the field guides to North American birds will be out of date.

I first heard Sooty Grouse while searching for Spotted Owls near Mount Hood in Oregon as a kid, and saw my first Dusky Grouse sitting in a tree in Memorial Cemetery in Salt Lake City in 1993.

The new checklist supplement also makes a lot of rearrangements and changes to scientific names, based on latest research on relationships between species. So, lots of changes reflecting our growing understanding of the world of birds. Pretty fun stuff!

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