2019 Changes to the Taxonomy

Fortunately, the number in the title is the year, and not the number of changes for us to remember!

The North American Classification Committee (NACC) of the American Ornithology Society has recently published this year’s decisions regarding proposals for name changes for North American birds. Although I mentioned only two major possible changes at the annual meeting in March, many additional proposals were published after that time. Fortunately, only a few of them are of significance for Costa Rica birders.  

First, the good news. The proposal to split the Resplendent Quetzal into two species was not approved. It seems that the difference in lengths and widths of male supracaudal plumes (tail feathers) was not sufficient to justify the split.

Now the slightly bad, but not horrible, news. The Orange-bellied Trogon is no more. It has been merged with the Collared Trogon, which it resembles in every aspect except . . . . . . . Yes! The color of its belly!

Here are the major changes to the English names of Costa Rican birds. None of the three changes are for birds that we commonly see on our regular bird walks here in San Vito. 

  • The Costa Rican population of the Steely-vented Hummingbird, which is found in the northern part of the country, is now called the Blue-vented Hummingbird. Its scientific name is Amazilia hoffmanni.
  • The Yellow-thighed Finch is now the Yellow-thighed Brushfinch (Atlapetes tibialis).
  • The Vermiculated Screech-Owl has been split into two species. The common Costa Rica species is now called Middle American Screech-Owl, which retains the scientific name Megascops guatamalae. The other species, which is similar in all aspects except voice, is Chocó Screech-Owl (Megascops centralis), which may or may not be found in Costa Rica, depending on your reference source. I may or may not look into that further.

In not-quite-so-major name change news, all of the Costa Rican Ground-Doves (Blue, Common, Maroon-chested, Plain-breasted, and Ruddy) are now Ground Doves, without the hyphen. Apparently hyphenated “last names” indicate species that are each others’ closest relatives, which, according to the taxonomists, these birds are not. 

The remaining changes are to the scientific names of several species. These are important for anyone who posts to any of the Costa Rica birding sites, especially the AOCR Facebook page. In addition to the new scientific names underlined above, please note the following:


  • Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina) is now Leiothlypis peregrina
  • Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata) is now Leiothlypis celata
  • Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla) is now Leiothlypis ruficapilla

Ground Dove

  • Maroon-chested Ground Dove (Claravis mondetoura) is now Paraclaravis mondetoura


  • Blue-black Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa cyanoides) is now Cyanoloxia cyanoides


  • Speckled Tanager (Tangara guttata)is now Ixothraupis guttata
  • Golden-hooded Tanager (Tangara larvata) is now Stilpnia larvata


  • Black Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma melania) is now Hydrobates melania
  • Leach’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) is now Hydrobates leucorhoa
  • Least Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma microsoma) is now Hydrobates microsoma
  • Markham’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma markhami) is now Hydrobates markhami
  • Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma tethys) is now Hydrobates tethys

Surprisingly, there was no proposal submitted to the NACC regarding a name change for the Paltry Tyrannulet. Therefore, although it is referred to as Mistletoe Tyrannulet in eBird, it is still officially Paltry Tyrannulet in Costa Rica.

If you wish to look further into the minds of the NACC taxonomists, you will find the full report by using the following link: