Adoption of a global taxonomy

18 August 2016

The Council of the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU) recognises the value of the global harmonisation of avian taxonomy. Following unsuccessful attempts to seek an agreed European taxonomy it was announced in November 2015 that the BOU would disband its own Taxonomic Sub-committee and review the available global taxonomies with a view to adopt one system for all BOU activities, including the British List (for more information see

Notably, moving towards a single international harmonised taxonomy is one of the declared aims of the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU), with a round table meeting being convened at 27th International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver, Canada in August 2018. However, BOU recognises that it may be many years before this is achieved and would like to harmonise its own taxonomy with a global list more rapidly, rather than waiting for a final global consensus to emerge.

A working group from BOU Council and the BOU Records Committee (BOURC) met in August 2016 to determine the criteria to be considered and the process for selecting which global taxonomy to adopt. Factors to be considered will include the regularity of updates to the taxonomy, and the extent to which the process for decision making is open and transparent, as well as being scientifically valid and consistent. The major current global taxonomies (Bird-Life International/HBW, Clements, IOC, Howard and Moore) will be contacted shortly and invited to provide information relating to these criteria. All of this information will be considered at a joint meeting of BOU Council and BOURC, following which a decision will be made regarding which global taxonomic system will be followed by BOU.

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