Ok, last discussion I’m going to bring up today. There’s been conflicting opinions on how we should curate the Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) subspecies.
Right now the Clements checklist only accepts 3 subspecies of Evening Grosbeak named as follows; brooksi, vespertinus and montanus. In 2018, Matt Young, finch expert, released his report that Evening Grosbeak was a species like the Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) in which they have call types. These “types” are geographic variations of a species in which the flock stays together with a call only distinct to that type. These calls differ and has been deemed grounds for calling these types subspecies. Here’s the problem, Young described five different call types and as follows:
C. v. brooksi Type 1
C. v. californica Type 2
C. v. vespertinus Type 3
C. v. warreni Type 4
C. v. montanus Type 5
As you can tell there are two “new” subspecies. Young made the statement in his report that… “Our use of the subspecies names with the call types above should be considered a scientific hypothesis, yet to be established in peer-reviewed literature.”
Here’s the problem we encounter on iNaturalist. One, all of these call types are identifiable and what if an observer posts a Type 2 or Type 4. Neither of these birds fall under any subspecies besides there is no taxon to represent them. Two, since these two “new” subspecies are undescribed, that means they have not been implemented into the Clements Checklist. And three, even if a peer-reviewed paper is released and it formally described the two new subspecies, the chances of the AOS actually accepting it is slim as they have not bothered with subspecies taxonomy since the 70’s unless that subspecies had the possibility of being elevated to species level. That means the Clements Checklist won’t update with the paper.
The same thing goes for the Red Crossbill. Types versus subspecies as follows below.
Type 1 – Probably pusilla but maybe neogaea (synonymized taxon). Recommended to describe an entirely new subspecies for this type.
Type 2 – Subspecies benti is most appropriate but has been used interchangeably with Type 5.
Type 3 – Probably minor but name already attached to Type 10. Describing a new subspecies is probably best.
Type 4 – Possibly vividior but that’s currently not an accepted subspecies.
Type 5 – Subspecies bendirei is most appropriate but has been used interchangeably with Type 2.
Type 6 – Subspecies stricklandi
Type 7 – Unknown but possibly not accepted subspecies neogaea or Type 1’s pusilla.
Type 8 – Probably percna
Type 10 – Maybe sitkensis
Type 11 – mesamericana
Keep in mind that the only type with a confirmed subspecies in ebird is Type 11. So there is more taxonomic issues with the crossbill and grosbeak.
So when observers report these birds unto iNat, what are we going to about that. Here’s the two suggestions given.
We start creating “forms” on iNat as a taxonomic level below subspecies or perhaps to replace subspecies in species like the Evening Grosbeak and Red Crossbill.
We deviate from the Clements checklist and just create the subspecies that represent the forms.
Open to comments and discussion.