Archived 2014 discussion: Additional changes to species listed as Extinct: six [edited from five] Extinct species are being re-categorised as Not Recognised and 12 taxa [edited from 11] are being newly recognised as Extinct species

The final deadline for comments on this topic is 19 May 2014.

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

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish 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 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), 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.

Six [edited from five on 16 May 2014] Extinct species are being re-categorised as Not Recognised:

Ara gossei, A. atwoodi, A. guadeloupensis and A. erythrocephala (BirdLife species factsheets): These four species are to be removed from the BirdLife list of accepted species based on the study by Wiley and Kirwan (2013) into the existence of extinct macaw species in the West Indies.

Dysmoropelia dekarchiskos (BirdLife species factsheet): Subfossil evidence from St Helena indicates that this species probably became extinct before or during the Last Glacial Maximum (Lewis 2008), thus the species is to be re-categorised by BirdLife as Not Recognised and removed from the list of species known or thought to have been extant post-1500 AD.

Gallicolumba norfolciensis (BirdLife species factsheet) [added to this topic on 16 May 2014]: Subfossil remains from Norfolk Island identified as a species of Gallicolumba (Higgins and Davies 1996, Rich et al. 1983) (but possibly referring to an Alopecoenas sp. [D. Schodde in litt. 2014 per A. Elliott in litt. 2014], have been linked with a painting by J. Hunter from 1790 (Hindwood 1965), which may have served as basis for part of the description of Columba norfolciensis by Latham in 1801. The description also drew on correspondence from 1788–1790, referring to a small terrestrial dove that was common and tame. These various indications may or may not refer to the same species, and the original description appears to be composite, perhaps referring to both Columba leucomela (infrequent vagrant to Norfolk Island) and Chalcophaps longirostris (present on Norfolk Island, possibly introduced) (Schodde and Mason 1997). Owing to the lack of type specimen for Columba norfolciensis, the uncertain identity and confused usage, spanning three rather different genera, this name has now been formally suppressed (Schodde et al. 2007, ICZN 2010, Dickinson and Remsen 2013).

Twelve taxa [corrected from 11 on 1 May 2014] are being newly recognised as Extinct species following descriptions and evidence that they are likely to have remained extant post-1500 AD:

Chenonetta finschi: Holdaway et al. (2002) present evidence that this species could have remained extant in New Zealand post-1500 AD.

Nyctanassa carcinocatactes: This species was described from fossils found on Bermuda and is presumed to relate to herons noted by early travellers after the human settlement of Bermuda in 1612 (Olson and Wingate 2006).

Bermuteo avivorus: Described from fossils found on Bermuda and thought to relate to raptors observed in 1603 (Olson 2008).

Dryolimnas augusti: Described from fossils from Reunion by Mourer-Chauviré et al. (1999) and thought to correspond to a rail species mentioned by Dubois (1674 per Mourer-Chauviré et al. 1999) as Râle des Bois.

Tribonyx hodgenorum: Described from fossils found in New Zealand, the most recent of which date from c.1700 (Cassels et al. 1988).

Porphyrio paepae: Described by Steadman (1988) from bones found at archaeological sites on Hiva Oa and Tahuata. These fossils are thought to relate to a flightless bird seen on Hiva Oa on a single occasion in 1937 (Heyerdahl 1974 per T. Tyrberg in litt. 2014).

Columba thiriouxi: Described from fossils found on Mauritius that presumably relate to wood pigeons mentioned by early visitors to the island (Cheke and Hume 2008).

Alectroenas payandeei [added to this topic on 1 May 2014]: The species is likely to have gone extinct during the 17th century, but before the first detailed faunal list was made by Leguat in 1691-1693 (Hume 2011).

Nesoenas cicur: Described from fossils found on Mauritius that presumably relate to the “tourterelles” noted in the early 18th century (Cheke and Hume 2008, Hume 2011).

Eclectus infectus: This species is described by Steadman (2006a) from bones found at archaeological (late Holocene) and paleontological (late Pleistocene) sites on three islands in Tonga, and presumably relates to a drawing of a parrot from the Malaspina expedition to Vava’u, Tonga in 1793 (Steadman 2006b, Olson 2006).

Aegolius gradyi: Described from fossil remains from Bermuda by Olson (2012), who in reviewing accounts dating from the early 1600s, considers it likely to have persisted into the historic period.

Colaptes oceanicus: Described from fossils from Bermuda by Olson (2013), who in reviewing historic accounts, regards the species as likely to have persisted into the colonial period (1600s).

Comments on these changes would be welcomed.


Cassels, R. J. S., Jones, K. L., Walton, A. and Worthy, T. H. (1988) Late prehistoric subsistence practices at Parewanui, lower Rangitikei River, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology 10: 109–128.

Cheke, A. and Hume, J. (2008) Lost land of the Dodo: an ecological history of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues. London, UK: T & AD Poyser.

Dickinson, E. C. and Remsen, J. V. (Eds.) (2013) The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 4th edition. Vol. 1. Non-passerines. Eastbourne, UK: Aves Press.

Higgins, P. J. and Davies, S. J. J. F. (Eds.) (1996) Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 3. Pratincoles to Pigeons. Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Hindwood, K.A. (1965) John Hunter: a naturalist and artist of the First Fleet. Emu 65(2): 83-95.

Holdaway, R. N., Jones, M. D. and Athfield, N. R. B. (2002) Late Holocene extinction of Finsch’s duck (Chenonetta finschi), an endemic, possibly flightless, New Zealand duck. Journal of The Royal Society of New Zealand 32(4): 629–651.

Hume, J. P. (2011) Systematics, morphology, and ecology of pigeons and doves (Aves: Columbidae) of the Mascarene Islands, with three new species. Zootaxa 3124: 1–62.

ICZN (2010) OPINION 2251 (Case 3442) Columba norfolciensis Latham, 1801 (Aves, COLUMBIDAE): name suppressed. Bull. Zool. Nomen. 67(2): 192‐193.

Lewis, C. A. (2008) The Late Glacial and Holocene avifauna of the Island of St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 63(2): 128–144.

Mourer-Chauviré, C., Bour, R., Ribes, S. and Moutou, F. (1999) The Avifauna of Reunion Island (Mascarene Islands) at the Time of the Arrival of the First Europeans. Pp 1–38 In: Olson, S. L. (Ed.) Avian Paleontology at the Close of the 20th Century: Proceedings of the 4th International Meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, Washington, D.C., 47 June 1996. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 89. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Olson, S. L. (2006). Birds, including extinct species, encountered by the Malaspina Expedition on Vava’u, Tonga, in 1793. Archives of Natural History 33(1):42–52.

Olson, S. L. (2008) A new genus and species of buteonine hawk from Quaternary deposits in Bermuda (Aves: Accipitridae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 121(1): 130–141.

Olson, S. L. (2012) A new species of small owl of the genus Aegolius (Aves: Strigidae) from Quaternary deposits on Bermuda. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 125(2): 97–105.

Olson, S. L. (2013) Fossil woodpeckers from Bermuda with the description of a new species of Colaptes (Aves: Picidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 126(1): 17–24.

Olson, S. L. and Wingate, D. B. (2006) A new species of night-heron (Ardeidae: Nyctanassa) from Quaternary deposits on Bermuda. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 119(2): 326–337.

Rich, P., van Tets, G., Orth, K., Meredith, C. and Davidson, P. (1983) Prehistory of the Norfolk Island biota. Pp. 7–29 in Schodde, R., Fullagar, P. and Hermes, N. (Eds.) A Review of Norfolk Island Birds: Past and Present. Australian National Parks & Wildlife. Australian National Parks & Wildlife Service, Special Publication 8. Canberra, Australia: Australian National Parks & Wildlife Service.

Schodde, R., Bock, W. J. and Steinheimer, F. D. (2007) Stabilising the nomenclature of Australasian birds by invalidation and suppression of disused and dubious names. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 127(4): 268-282.

Schodde, R. and Mason, I. J. (1997) Aves (Columbidae to Coraciidae). In: Houston, W.W. K. and Wells, A. (Eds.) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 37(2). Melbourne, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.

Steadman, D. W. (1988) A new species of Porphyrio (Aves: Rallidae) from archeological sites in the Marquesas Islands. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 101(1): 162–170.

Steadman, D. W. (2006a) A New Species of Extinct Parrot (Psittacidae: Eclectus) from Tonga and Vanuatu, South Pacific. Pacific Science 60(1): 137–145.

Steadman, D. W. (2006b) Extinction and Biogeography of Tropical Pacific Birds. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

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.

Wiley, J. W. and Kirwan, G. M. (2013) The extinct macaws of the West Indies, with special reference to Cuban Macaw Ara tricolor. Bull. B.O.C. 133(2): 125–156.

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7 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Additional changes to species listed as Extinct: six [edited from five] Extinct species are being re-categorised as Not Recognised and 12 taxa [edited from 11] are being newly recognised as Extinct species

  1. Richard Roe says:

    Columba thiriouxi should not be recognized.

    The species description by Hume (2011) is flawed.

    Hume designates the holotype as MNHN 6934, a right tarsometatarsus in the Muséum National d’ Histoire naturelle in Paris. But among the referred material he lists a left tarsometarsus in Paris, MNHN MAD 6934 (MAD denotes “Madagascar”). In the appendix of measurements he refers to 2 tarsometarsi, so either the holotype or the referred tarsometarsus is assigned the wrong number in the diagnosis.

    In the referred material, he lists a sternum, MNHN MAD 6990, and he includes a photo of a partial sternum in Figure 8, identified in the caption as MNHN MAD 6990 Columba thiriouxi. But on page 24, he writes” “Two almost complete and one partial sterna (MNHN MAD6988, MAD6987, MAD6990), plus one complete and one partial pelvis (MNHN MAD6839, MAD6838) collected by Thirioux from Le Pouce mountain along with C. thiriouxi are referable to C.livia…” It is therefore unclear whether the partial sternum MNHN MAD 6990 is referable to C. thiriouxi or to C. livia.

    Figure 8 also includes a photo of a sternum identified in the caption as MNHN MAD 6988 Columba livia. But Figure 11 shows the actual MNHN MAD 6988 (the number “MAD 6988” is written on the carina), and it is obviously a different specimen (darker in color and fragmented).

    Hume writes: “The only large pigeon other than Alectroenas and Nesoenas that currently occurs on Mauritius is the introduced Columba livia, but this species is much larger than C. thiriouxi, e.g. 9% longer in total length of tarsometatarsus.” In the appendix of measurements, he gives the measurements of the 2 tarsometatarsi of C. thirouxi as 28.1-28.2 mm. But he also gives the range of measurements of 11 tarsometatarsi of C. livia as 29.1-34.3 mm. The larger of the 2 tarsometatarsi of C. thiriouxi is therefore only 0.9 mm shorter than the shortest of the 11 tarsometatarsi of C. livia that was measured. It is the mean (28.1 mm) of the 2 C.thiriouxi tarsometatarsi that is almost 9% (.89%) shorter than the mean of the 11 C. livia tarsometatarsi. But Hume does not state this in the diagnosis, and what he does state is misleading.

    According to Hume, C. livia was introduced to Mauritius c. 1770. But he does not adequately distinguish any of the known elements (10 listed, but the number is indeterminable, due to the confusion regarding the tarsometatarsi and sterna mentioned above) from those of C. livia, other than by size, e.g. “sternum, morphologically similar but smaller than in Columba livia (Fig. 11).” Fig. 11 however shows 2 sterna of C. livia, including MAD 6988, so a comparison cannot be made. Hume’s diagnosis does not preclude the possibility that C. thiriouxi was a small C. livia.

    However, despite the similarity in the sterna of C. livia and C. thiriouxi, Hume only tentatively places C. thiriouxi in Columba: “The sternum, humerus and tarsometatarsus are unlike those of any other Mascarene columbid [presumably meaning endemic columbid], being more similar to the typical wood pigeons of the genus Columba; therefore, until more diagnostic material becomes available (e.g. cranium), this species is tentatively placed in that genus.”

    Based on the paucity of known material and the number of confusions and errors in Hume’s diagnosis of the species, it is best not to recognize C. thiriouxi until more material is found and analysed.

    • Joe Taylor says:

      Dear Richard,

      Thank you very much for your comments. We recommend that you publish these criticisms in a peer-reviewed format and invite a formal response. Our approach will remain to follow the published description and recognise the species, while acknowledging that there may be issues to resolve, until any appropriate criticisms are formally published and there has been an opportunity for these to be answered.

      Joe Taylor

      • Richard Roe says:

        Dear Joe,

        I am writing and illustrating a book on extinct birds for the publisher W.W. Norton, which is due to be published in 2016. I have been doing research on the topic for 10+ years. My criticisms of Hume (2011) will be included therein. I also assisted D. Donsker in the addition of extinct taxa to the IOC list (I am mentioned on the website, under “Extinct Birds”). Just because Hume’s descriptions of C. thiriouuxi and A. payandeei have been published should not be sufficient to accept them as valid, nor should criticisms be disregarded unless published; otherwise, what’s the point of inviting comments?

        A. payandeei is another taxon described by Hume (2011) which should not be recognized yet. It is known only from a single enigmatic tarsometatarsus that Hume fails to distinguish from A. nitidissima, except that is smaller. But there is not enough subfossil material of A. nitidissima known to determine its size range. Hume (2011) also admits that it’s possible this taxon disappeared before humans arrived on Rodrigues. Moreover, hundreds of bones have been discovered in the caves of Rodrigues belonging to a number of extinct endemic taxa, all of which are known from a series of skeletal elements, yet only one bone has ever been found of A. payandeei, and that one only very recently, in 2005? Finally, Leguat (1708), who spent three years on Rodrigues (1691-3), only recorded the presence of one columbid on the island, Nesoenas rodericana.

        Please read Hume’s descriptions carefully before you make your final decision. Do not accept the validity of C. thiriouxi and A. payandeei simply because their descriptions have been published. The literature is littered with the names of taxa described from fossil bones that were later shown to be invalid, e.g. over 20 species of moa were described from fossil bones (in a number of cases, from only a single bone!), yet only 9 are accepted as valid today.

        Richard Roe

  2. Joe Taylor says:

    This topic has been edited to add Alectroenas payandeei to the list of taxa being newly recognised by BirdLife as species known or thought to have become extinct since 1500 AD.

  3. Xavier Batllori says:

    There are two additional taxa worth of consideration:

    The first one is Puffinus spelaeus (Scarlett’s Shearwater). Known from hundreds of bones collected in South Island (New Zealand). Although never reported in live, radiometric dating of the youngest fossils yielded 1566-1858 AD (calibrated date) (Turvey 2009; Tennyson & Martinson 2007). Unless I am unaware of any published criticism to it, this dating definitely places this taxon post-1500 AD. Most probably extinct, although Tennyson & Martinson (2007) point out that there is a small chance it survives, as its former breeding range has not been throughoutly surveyed.

    The second taxon is Nycticorax olsoni (Ascension Night Heron). Known only from bones, but possibly reported in live by André Thévet in 1555 (Hume & Walters 2012). This possibility relies on his “Aponars” really referring to the present taxon, which admitedly is somewhat speculative. I have no strong opinion on this issue.

    A final remark. After removal of the four macaws, three extinct caribbean parrots not backed by any specimen (“Arantinga” labati, Amazona violacea and Amazona martinicana) remain yet in the list. Support for their existence is not better than that for Ara gossei. Wiley & Kirwan (2013) restricted their analysis to the macaws, however, and I suppose that BirdLife is awaiting a formal peer-review of these taxa in order to delete them (or otherwise), isn’t it?.

    Additional literature cited:
    Turvey, S.T. (ed.), Holocene Extinctions, Oxford University Press (2009)
    Tennyson, A. & Martinson, P., Extinct Birds of New Zealand, Te Papa Press (2007)

  4. Joe Taylor says:

    This topic has been edited to add Gallicolumba norfolciensis to the list of taxa being re-categorised as Not Recognised by BirdLife.

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following review of the comments posted above, the changes outlined in the topic will be recommended to IUCN for incorporation into the 2014 Red List update. However, BirdLife has noted the comments posted here and may refer to these for future taxonomic revisions.

    The final categorisations will be published in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

Comments are closed.