American Coot (Fulica americana) and Caribbean Coot (F. caribaea) are being lumped as F. americana: list the newly defined species as Least Concern?

The initial deadline for comments on this topic is 10 March 2014, and is therefore later than for most other topics currently under discussion.

This is part of a consultation on the Red List implications of extensive changes to BirdLife’s taxonomy for non-passerines

Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International will soon publish the HBW-BirdLife Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, building off the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, and BirdLife’s annually updated taxonomic checklist.

The new Checklist will be based on the application of criteria for recognising species limits described by Tobias et al. (2010). Full details of the specific scores and the basis of these for each new taxonomic revision will be provided in the Checklist.

Following publication, an open and transparent mechanism will be established to allow people to comment on the taxonomic revisions or suggest new ones, and provide new information of relevance in order to inform regular updates. We are also actively seeking input via a discussion topic here regarding some potential taxonomic revisions that currently lack sufficient information.

The new Checklist will form the taxonomic basis of BirdLife’s assessments of the status of the world’s birds for the IUCN Red List. The taxonomic changes that will appear in volume 1 of the checklist (for non-passerines) will begin to be incorporated into the 2014 Red List update, with the remainder, and those for passerines (which will appear in volume 2 of the checklist), to be incorporated into subsequent Red List updates.

Preliminary Red List assessments have been carried out for the newly split or lumped taxa. We are now requesting comments and feedback on these preliminary assessments.

American Coot Fulica americana and Caribbean Coot F. caribaea are being lumped as F. americana, following the application of criteria set out by Tobias et al. (2010) and the study of published information (Robertson and Baptista 1988, McNair and Cramer-Burke 2006, Sibley 2011).

Prior to the taxonomic change, F. americana (BirdLife species factsheet), a widespread and mostly migratory inhabitant of freshwater aquatic and coastal marine habitats in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), was listed as being of Least Concern, on the basis that it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria. The overall population is thought to be stable or increasing (Wetlands International 2014).

F. caribaea (BirdLife species factsheet), a resident of freshwater aquatic and sometimes brackish habitats in the West Indies and northern Venezuela (Taylor and van Perlo 1998), was listed as Near Threatened under criterion A2cde, on the basis that it was suspected to have undergone a moderately rapid population decline (approaching 30% over 21 years [estimate of three generations]) owing mainly to hunting and wetland drainage.

Following the taxonomic change, it is suggested that F. americana be listed as being of Least Concern, on the basis that it is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria.

Comments are invited and further information would be welcomed.


McNair, D. B. and Cramer‐Burke, C. (2006) Breeding ecology of American and Caribbean coots at Southgate Pond, St. Croix: use of woody vegetation. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 118(2): 208–217.

Roberson, D. and Baptista, L. F. (1988) White‐shielded coots in North America: a critical evaluation. American Birds 42: 1241–1246.

Sibley, D. (2011) The ‘Caribbean’ Coot in North America. Downloaded on 15 November 2013.

Taylor, B. and van Perlo, B. (1998) Rails: a guide to the rails, crakes, gallinules and coots of the world. Robertsbridge, UK: Pica Press.

Tobias, J. A., Seddon, N., Spottiswoode, C. N., Pilgrim, J. D., Fishpool, L. D. C. and Collar, N. J. (2010) Quantitative criteria for species delimitation. Ibis 152: 724–746.

Wetlands International (2014) “Waterbird Population Estimates”. Retrieved from on 3 February 2014.

Related posts:

  1. Green Parakeet (Aratinga holochlora) and Socorro Parakeet (A. brevipes) are being lumped as A. holochlora: list the newly defined species as Least Concern?
  2. Wedge-tailed Sabrewing (Campylopterus curvipennis) and Long-tailed Sabrewing (C. excellens) are being lumped as C. curvipennis: list the newly defined species as Least Concern?
  3. Archived 2011-2012 topics: Taxonomic changes in the genus Melanitta, part I: suggestion to list M. nigra as Vulnerable and request for information on M. americana
  4. The newly described taxon Oceanites pincoyae is to be recognised as a species by BirdLife: list as Data Deficient?
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3 Responses to American Coot (Fulica americana) and Caribbean Coot (F. caribaea) are being lumped as F. americana: list the newly defined species as Least Concern?

  1. Thomas Donegan says:

    In reviewing Ellery (2013)’s recent publication on a first record for Caribbean Coot in mainland Colombia, it came to my attention that the distribution of coots in different habitats in nothern S America is noteworthy. Caribbean Coot occurs at low elevations (localities with high temperatures) in mangroves / coastal humedales and marsh, whilst American Coot occurs in humedales of the Andes at high elevation. Habitat differentiation might result in a higher “score” using the system adopted here. But I am not convinced they are good species at all even then.

  2. Andy Symes says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List would be to treat the newly-lumped American Coot Fulica americana as Least Concern.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  3. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there has been no change to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of this species.

    The final categorisation will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

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