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A Guide to the WBCP Checklist of Birds of the Philippines 2013

Philippine birders have a lot of big changes to tackle in 2014 with the release of the new WBCP checklist. There are new English names, new species, and re-ordering of families. WBCP Records Committee member Desmond Allen guides us through the new checklist.

The WBCP Checklist of Birds of the Philippines 2013
by Desmond Allen  

Finally, at long last, the WBCP checklist of the birds of the Philippines has been updated by the Records Committee team. It has been a long and arduous journey and the six principal voyagers are listed strictly in alphabetical order in the first row of the file. The previous WBCP checklist was based on the only complete guidebook that we have – A guide to the birds of the Philippines by Bob Kennedy, Pete Gonzales, Edward Dickinson, Hector Miranda and Tim Fisher, published in 2000, and often called the Kennedy guide (KG). Using this has always been sensible since the names in that book are the ones that most birders these days are going to see and use. However, much has changed in the Philippine bird world in the last 13 years, and we have needed to take account of that.

Each year, as previously unrecorded species were observed and documented we added them to the list in blue font, using the names in the Howard and Moore (H&M) checklist of birds of the world version 3, published in 2003. This has kept the total list of bird species up-to-date. However, revisions to the names of birds by ornithologists have been sweeping around the world, resulting in a plethora of unfamiliar names for many Philippine birds and we have needed to take account of that for the sakes of all WBCP members.

H&M was based on the Peters’ checklist of birds, a mammoth undertaking that took decades to complete, and which in many instances lumped many geographically separate species into a single species with many subspecies. This ‘lumping’ was done often  without any knowledge of the songs or calls of the birds involved, and certainly with no knowledge of their genetic ancestry. In the last decade, however, year by year, sometimes even month by month, new research results, indicated that these large groupings are inappropriate. Many of the revisions are the results of DNA analyses that suggested that apparently similar birds on different islands are much less closely related than museum specialists used to think. Birds that were originally listed as full species in their original descriptions of a hundred or more years ago, and had been lumped by  Peters et al., are regularly being ‘split’ or ‘unlumped’ into two or more species, often back to the original. The two world checklists readily available to birders online are the Clements list and the IOC list. The IOC list is updated every 3 months, with proposals for splits and lumps being posted on the website as soon as they are published, and has a large committee of professional ornithologists. Given that the coming years will see many more taxonomic rearrangements, the committee felt that it be more appropriate to follow this list. So in almost all circumstances the new WBCP list follows the English names of the IOC list.

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If you open the excel file of the new list you will see that the English names, including many unfamiliar ones, appear in the left column D, but to its right are the comparable names from the KG (column E), to help those who  are feeling lost. Moving right, next is a column indicating splits. Only those species whose names have changed, or from which one or more other species have been split ,are indicated (S, SE, SN). At the end of the list  (rows 858+) are notes explaining these acronyms. Beside this column is the scientific name, usually based on Latin. These names are those used  in the IOC list, not those in the KG. Next is the range: resident, migrant, endemic, etc., followed by two threatened status columns, the first BirdLife, the second DENR, again explained below the list.

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The notes column (K) to the far right lists an eclectic mix of other information that you might want. It lists the sources for the additional new species, with dates, locations and names  of observers; it  comments on some new breeding records, and introduced species; it points out species that have not been recorded recently, and endemics that have occasionally occurred outside  Philippine territory; and scientific names that differ from the KG, usually as a result of taxonomic rearrangements, are listed.

Finally, the left three columns A-C allow you to sort the list and regroup birds as you need. This is most conveniently done on the second page where we haave avoided merged cells. For example, select rows 1-858, then Data from the menu bar (or just Sort from the menu), then Sort  by column D and you can put the birds in alphabetical order, or by column H and you will group all the birds of similar range together eg all the endemics. You can also sort within sorted groups to fine tune your list. Column A allows you to resort back to the present format.

This is certainly not a final list. As you know, new species are added each year as the ever greater numbers of observers and photographers document rare, wayward migrants. Moreover, there is still a huge amount to learn from the genetics of birds on the long-isolated, different island groups  that will almost certainly result in many more splits being accepted by IOC. Some of these, such as Philippine Collared Dove, are still waiting in the wings as you can see from the proposed splits page. The use of the IOC English names does not mean that all of us records committee members are satisfied with these names. Far from it, and we will be trying to persuade the IOC of the need for some changes, and will be giving our advice when new names are needed. So this list should be seen as a work in progress. We expect to post regular updates with more new birds, eg Richard Ruiz’s Mandarin Duck, and more exciting new English bird names to get to grips with, in due course.


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  2. Thomas Kuenzel

    Dear WBCP Team, I am very much excited to read the new checklist on Philippine birds you report about here. Unfortunately I cannot find a link to open that list – maybe I overlook something. Please, can you help me. Thanks and best regards, Thomas

    • Sylvia Ramos

      Hi Thomas, the checklist can be downloaded from the website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines ( However, the link is currently down. I will email the file to you.

  3. Thomas Kuenzel

    Hi Sylvia, thank you very much for sending me a copy of WBCP’s updated Philippine Bird List.

    I congratulate the authors (D. Allen, R. Hutchinson, A. Jensen, C. Perez, S. Pryor, M. Villa) of the list to have undertaken the effort to update the old WBCP Bird List offering all WBCP-Members and others an easy inside in the ongoing changes in bird taxonomy – well done! It is very comfortable to have the availability to sort the birds after a variety of criteria. I am especially happy to see that the new list contains many new distributional details based on info from inside the record keeping books of the WBCP not available to outsiders until now.

    I am using this opportunity to inform that as a private activity I elaborated already in early 2013 a modern, updated Philippine Bird List “Up-dated Annotated Philippine Bird List: New Taxonomy (I)” applying generally John Boyd’s taxonomic approach as published in his “Taxonomy in Flux”, and distributed a first version in July 2013 to interested parties via the OB portal – in the meantime Version 3 has been already distributed, Version 4 is under preparation.

    My up-dated Philippine Bird List could be seen as an alternative list which is mainly based on John Boyd’s “Taxonomy in Change” (TiF) which he updates nearly monthly with the latest taxonomic findings making this list very different from others which general are much more conservatively maintained.

    I am very thankful to John Boyd to allow me in a very generous manner to make use of the info given in TiF for my updated Philippine bird list. I am also very grateful to Nigel Collar (BirdLife International) and Edward C. Dickinson (The Howard & Moore Checklist) for materials and very helpful discussions.

    It would be a pleasure for me to send a copy of my list to anybody who is asking for (any request please send to my following e-mail account : I also will update my list regularly according to new findings in bird taxonomy published in TiF and elsewhere.

    I wish ALL a very successful 2014 with much time and good opportunities for birding.
    With my best regards, Thomas

  4. Thomas Kuenzel

    Dear WBCP-Team, in your guide to your new list (A Guide to the WBCP Checklist of Birds of the Philippines 2013. Posted on 2014/01/01 by Sylvia Ramos) it reads as follows:

    “Next is the range: resident, migrant, endemic, etc., followed by two threatened status columns, the first BirdLife, the second DENR, again explained below the list.”

    I would like to ask you kindly to let me know whether the info given by different occurrence criteria (resident, migrant, endemic, etc.) used in WBCP’s new list are based on what has been stated in Kennedy et al 2000 “A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines”, or do they reflect new findings based on new records from WBCP?

    Thanking you very much for your helpful support, and with my very best regards, Thomas

    • Desmond Allen

      Where the distribution is different from the Kennedy guide it should be mentioned in the notes column. If you find any changes that are not explained please let us know.

      • Thomas Kuenzel

        Dear Desmond, thank you very much for your fast answers. I am presently working on another/extended Philippine Bird List, and I might see the need to get again some support from you and your colleagues in WBCP. Thanks again for now and a happy New Year to you and your family. With my very best regards, Thomas

  5. Thomas Kuenzel

    Dear WBCP Team, here comes one more question about your recordings.

    In WBCP’s very much appreciated book “Birdwatching in the Philippines V2” published in August 2009 you have included a “preliminary updated checklist 2009 (Edited by Arne Jensen, Steve Pryor and Desmond Allen”).

    The duck “American Wigeon Anas americana” is mentioned there as recorded in the Philippines.

    In WBCP’s new list from 2013 A. americana is not mentioned anymore.

    I guess that you decided that the respective record mentioned in WBCP’s book from 2009 had entered that list by mistake, or is there another explanation? I would be very glad if you could find the time to let me know your answer.

    With many thanks and with my apologies for making you busy, and with my very best regards, Thomas

    • Desmond Allen

      Thomas, thanks for your interest. Closer examination of the photos of American Wigeon showed that it had hybrid characters. Overall it looked like American Wigeon but it was decided that we needed a thoroughbred for the list 🙂

        • Thomas Kuenzel

          Dear Desmond, as I explained already that around June 2013 I distributed to some interested parties my own updated Philippine bird list (updated by following mainly John Boyd’s “Taxonomy in Flux”). In that list I made thorough comparisons between the “new” names I used in my list and the “old” names used in Kennedy et al. 2000 and also with those used in the former WBCP list published in WBCP’s book “Birdwatching in the Philippines” in 2008.

          I am presently going through my list to replace names used formerly by WBCP with the “new” names you used now in your new list.

          When reaching Pterodroma hypoleuca I found that you seemingly have listed that species as a good record for the Philippines.
          In Kennedy’s guide only 1 record (1935, Manila Bay) is mentioned for that species, and the authors added. “There is some question over the validity of this record.”
          The same doubt over that record can be read in the annotated checklist from Dickinson et al. 1991 from where Kennedy et al. probably took over.

          My guess is that you have some more recent and more valid records, and I would be very thankful if you could give me some more details.

          With many thanks for your friendly support and again with my apologies for making you busy. Best regards, Thomas

          You could also reach me through my private account:

          • Desmond Allen

            The ‘I agree with you refers to the American Wigeon, but the reply function does not put it under that note.

          • Desmond Allen

            Thomas, I don’t think any of us have seen your TiF list. It sounds a very interesting and useful project.
            My understanding is that Mcgregor’s observations have been taken as fact for the 2 books you mentioned, because he was deemed a very good observer,and because the museum and all the specimens were destroyed in the war. I suspect we have overlooked scrutinising that record, though the chances of Pterodroma hypoleuca not occurring in the Philippines on a fairly regular basis seem quite remote, to me at least. Thanks for drawing it to our attention.

  6. Thomas Kuenzel

    Dear Desmond, here come some more questions:

    1) in your Philippine bird list published 2008 by WBCP in “Birdwatching in the Philippines” you listed Puffinus pacifica and Calonectris leucomelas, but these 2 spp have been omitted in your new list from 2013. Please, let me know the reasons.

    2) In your 2008 published list you at least mentioned the split of Milvus lineatus from M. migrans by writing: “Black Kite – ssp lineatus (Black-eared Kite)”.
    But in your new list from 2013 you omitted any hint to that split – you bring that record as “Black Kite Milvus migrans.
    Please, let me know why you decided for that different treatment.

    Many thanks as usual and with my very best regards, Thomas

      • Thomas Kuenzel

        Dear Desmond, sorry for that – it was me who confused you. I used the list sorted after occurrence criteria where the two Shearwaters are to be found under line 355 and 356 – away from their other “colleagues”. My mistake, I found them now.

        Anyway, what about Milvus species/subspecies.

        You wrote that you never saw my Philippine bird list. That’s easy to be explained. I announced via OB’s blog in July 2013 and sent in only to those who asked for. If you let me have your e-mail address I shall send you a copy.

        Thanks and best regards, Thomas

        • Desmond Allen

          I can only comment about the kite that the lack of a reference to lineatus does not mean we think it wasn’t lineatus. There are lots more comments about subspecies that could have gone into the notes column.
          As for your TiF list, I emailed you on 3rd January about it to Did you get that?

  7. Thomas Kuenzel

    Dear WBCP-Team, for birding around Tibsoc (south of Bago City, Negros Occid.) I would like to get in touch (e-mail) with Faith Paas and Christina Perez. I have been told that the two Ladies are affiliated with WBCP. Can you help me, please. Thank you very much for your friendly support. With my very best regards, Thomas

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