Archived 2016 topics: Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra) is being moved to genus Pyrrhulagra and split: request for information.

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the second volume of the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 2 of the checklist (for passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2016 Red List update, with the remainder to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

Cuban Bullfinch Melopyrrha nigra is being moved to genus Pyrrhulagra and split into P. nigra and P. taylori, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010).

Prior to this taxonomic change, Cuban Bullfinch ( was listed as Least Concern on the basis that it did not approach the threshold for Vulnerable under any criteria. The pre-split species was characterised as ‘fairly common’ (Stotz et al. 1996). P. nigra (as now defined following the taxonomic change) has a very similar range as prior to the split, and so the species is still considered to be ‘fairly common’. This species is found in forest and mangroves, as well as in brushy areas on the main island of Cuba and a number of associated smaller islands (Rising 2016). It is affected by habitat loss, and fragmentation as well as by trapping for the cage bird market (Alonso et al. 2012, Ayón Güemes et al. 2013). Alonso et al. (2012) listed this species as Near Threatened due to potentially high levels of offtake of this species from the wild for trade in the cage bird market in Cuba. However, it is uncertain what degree of decline there actually is in the population as a result of these factors as there are no values to show the rate of population decline. We therefore request any further information regarding measures of decline in this species to help decide whether this species warrants a global listing as Near Threatened under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd.

P. taylori is found only on Grand Cayman Island in the Cayman Islands in brushy areas, forest and mangroves (Rising 2016). It is described as common (Rising 2016) and is frequently recorded (see ebird webpage:, but given its restricted range its total population size may not exceed 10,000 mature individuals. There have been declines in this taxon, particularly in the west of Grand Cayman as a result of habitat fragmentation, and invasive mammals (Bradley 2000). We request any further information regarding population size and trend estimates, but in the absence of any such additional information it is proposed that this species be listed as Near Threatened under criterion C2a(ii).


Alonso, H. G., Schettino, L. R., Rodríguez, A., Mancina, C. A. and García, I. R. (2012) Libro Rojo de los Vertebrados de Cuba. Editorial Academia, La Habana

Ayón Güemes, X., Rojas, E. R. and Iñigo-Elias, E. E. (2013) Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Scuhlenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online;

Bradley, P. E. (2000) The birds of the Cayman Islands. BOU Checklist No 19. British Ornithologists’ Union, The Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire, UK

Rising, J. (2016). Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 August 2016).

Stotz, D. F., Fitzpatrick, J. W., Parker, T. A., Moskovits, D. K. (1996) Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

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One Response to Archived 2016 topics: Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra) is being moved to genus Pyrrhulagra and split: request for information.

  1. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2016 Red List would be to list:

    P. taylori as Near Threatened under criterion C2a(ii).

    P. nigra conservatively as Near Threatened under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 28 October, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2016 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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