Time to Make Empid Complexes?

Over the course of two weeks, I've observed several species of empids in the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene region, including Willow Flycatcher, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, a rare Alder Flycatcher (sadly unable to photograph/record it) and a potential Cordilleran Flycatcher. Anyone notice what the connection between the species I listed above? For those birders out there older than dirt, you would know that the Willow and Alder Flycatcher, and the Pacific-slope and Cordilleran Flycatcher were once the same species.

Probably the more well known complex is the Pacific-slope/Cordilleran (originally known as the Western Flycatcher) was split in 1989. Ever since then, they have been giving birders and even scientists headaches distinguishing them between each other. I will not go into the details of the taxon and why they were separated. The other complex was the Willow/Alder Flycatcher or the Traill's Flycatcher was split in 1973 for similar reasons.

The question I'm posing though is, should iNat curators start making empid complexes. And I think that it should extend beyond the two complexes I just mentioned. In cases dealing with empids, you can only separate certain species by call, habitat and range.

Here at the complexes I think should be added to iNat:

Western Flycatcher (Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher)

Traill's Flycatcher (Willow/Alder Flycatcher)

Hammond's/Dusky Flycatcher

Gray/Dusky Flycatcher

Now, you may ask, why is making the complexes important? That is because some of these empids CANNOT be identified to the species level by just a photo or such. Plus, we still don't know the range status of the Western Flycatcher in the Blue Mountains or northern Idaho. Not too mention, DNA analysis have been preformed in Idaho and there is hybridization between the species. By providing these complexes on iNat, we can id the empids to an even more correct id than just Empidonax genus.

Posted on June 14, 2019 02:56 AM by birdwhisperer birdwhisperer


Just wait a while on the Western Flycatcher thing. It seems like that split is likely to be reverted eventually. The others are identifiable to species a large portion of the time. You won't always be able to do it via a picture because some of the best ID cues are behavior and vocalizations. Any Empidonax that is unidentifiable to species from a picture or couple of pictures should be left at genus.

Posted by vermfly almost 4 years ago (Flag)

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