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Some Changes in Mountain and Everett’s White-eye Taxonomy

By Christian Perez

Changes in the 2019 Checklist of the Birds of the Philippines

Those of you with a keen eye would have noticed that in the newly published 2019 checklist the Mountain White-eye has disappeared and has been replaced with the Warbling White-eye. Perhaps some would have also noticed that the Everett’s White-eye that used to be resident (R) is now near endemic (NE).

WBCP follows the taxonomy published by the International Ornithological Union (known as IOC). The changes to the White-eye taxonomy were introduced by IOC in January 2019 (IOC version 9.1). I will describe here how the changes came about. For those who are interested, the full IOC list is accessible at https://www.worldbirdnames.org/ioc-lists/master-list-2/

The Mountain White-eye becomes Warbling White-eye

Briefly, the Warbling White-eye Zosterops japonicus is the result of the lumping of the Mountain White-eye Z. montanus with the Japanese White-eye Z. japonicus. The Mountain White-eye was a resident species ranging from Indonesia to the Philippines, with six subspecies in the Philippines. The six Philippine subspecies remain the same under the Warbling White-eye, so the Philippine is only affected by a change of English name and scientific name. The Japanese White-eye ranged from Sakhalin Island and Japan to Eastern China and Taiwan so the new Warbling White-eye has a wide range from Sakhalin Island to Indonesia.

To be complete I must mention that as part of the change some of the subspecies of the Japanese White-eye were split and rearranged to form a new species, the Swinhoe’s White-eye Z. simplex that ranges from Eastern China and Taiwan to the Malay Peninsula. However, that split does not affect the Philippines

For those with a particular interest in taxonomy, the change was proposed in a 2018 paper entitled Molecular evidence suggests radical revision of species limits in the great speciator white-eye genus Zosterops, by Bryan T. M. Lim, et al, an abstract of which can be seen at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10336-018-1583-7

The change is not yet reflected in eBird as they implement taxonomic changes once a year in August. We expect the changes to be reflected in eBird at the time.

Warbling White-eye, Baguio City (photo by Sylvia Ramos)

The Everett’s White-eye becomes a near endemic species

Before the change, the Everett’s White-eye Z. everetti ranged from Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Talaud Island and the Philippines. The species was split as two subspecies were removed and rearranged to form a new species Hume’s White-eye Z. auriventer. The other six subspecies remain under the Everett’s White-eye. They include five subspecies that are endemic to the Philippines and one subspecies endemic to Talaud, a small Indonesian island about 200 kms south of Mindanao, making the Everett’s White-eye a near endemic species.

The six subspecies and their range are:

boholensis      Bohol, Leyte and Samar
everetti           Cebu
basilanicus    Basilan and Mindanao (and nearby islands)
siquijorensis  Siquijor
mandibularis Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (a nearby islands)
babelo            Talaud Island, Indonesia

The change was proposed in a 2017 paper entitled Zosterops white-eyes in continental South-East Asia by D. R. Wells, which can be downloaded here.

Everett’s White-eye basilanicus, PICOP, Surigao del Sur (photo by Sylvia Ramos)

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