News, Updates, What's New

March 2017: taxonomic overhaul now complete!

The updating of the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) texts on HBW Alive has reached a major goal. In September 2014, we incorporated the new taxonomy for the non-passerines resulting from the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, Volume 1: Non-passerines. We have now applied the new taxonomy for the passerines based on Volume 2: Passerines of the Illustrated Checklist, published in December 2016. With this, our goal of completely updating the taxonomy of all bird species on HBW Alive is now complete!

The joint work between the HBW team and the BirdLife International Taxonomic Group to produce the Illustrated Checklist resulted in 22 lumps for the non-passerines and 54 lumps for the passerines, as well as 462 splits for the non-passerines and 627 splits for the passerines, compared with the taxonomy presented in the HBW series. At the macrosystematic level, the new taxonomy implies the recognition of many interesting—often surprising—relationships between and within orders, families, subfamilies, tribes and genera. The overall result is a new sequence that is fairly different from that used in HBW. See the complete lists of split species from Volume 1 and Volume 2.

The new species resulting from splits require the HBW Alive editors to review the current information thoroughly in search of more details on all aspects of the natural history of both the original “parent” species and the resulting “daughter” species. The team also has to check the links to photos and videos and, in most cases, change those that formerly led to the broader original species and/or look for new ones. The whole task was completed for the non-passerines in September 2015 and the process for the passerines is already well under way.

Understandably, currently the main effort of the HBW Alive editors is being devoted to filling in the details for the “new” passerine species. However, many other species texts (both non-passerines and passerines) are also being updated whenever important new information is published, for example, describing the discovery of the first nests or new migration routes of the species concerned. A major priority is the “Status and conservation” section, especially in the accounts of globally threatened species. We are also giving special attention to the “Voice” section, which was not included in the earliest HBW volumes. Furthermore, linking texts to audiovisual material is well advanced: there are close to 87,000 links to photographs, videos and sound recordings for over 5800 species, and this work continues at a satisfactory pace.