The North American Classification Committee (NACC) evaluates and codifies the latest scientific developments in the systematics, classification, nomenclature, and distribution of North and Middle American birds. The Committee produces the official Check-list of North American Birds as well as annual supplements to the latest edition, which are published in the The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

General Philosophy

The NACC operates under the philosophy and procedures outlined in the Preface to the 7th edition of the Check-list. Although the committee recognizes the controversy over species concepts in ornithology, it generally adheres to the principles of the Biological Species Concept. Multiple lines of evidence (e.g., multiple genetic loci, or genes plus other traits) are favored over single data sets for taxonomic changes at species and higher levels. The committee prefers to act conservatively in its treatments of taxonomy and nomenclature; thus, proposals that suggest but do not strongly support taxonomic change, or that cause instability, may be rejected pending further data. The NACC generally requires at least two independent datasets for making changes at higher-level classifications.

Proposals

The NACC operates on a proposal basis. Proposals are submitted and reviewed for taxonomic changes, English name changes, acceptance of distributional records, and other items related to the charge of the committee. Taxonomic and distributional proposals should be based on previously published data. Proposals that address English name changes should follow the Committee’s policy for English names (see below).

Members of the committee as well as non-members may submit proposals following the committee’s Proposal Guidelines. Proposals are submitted to the Chair of the committee, and sets of proposals are distributed to the committee periodically each year for discussion and voting. Proposals must receive a two-thirds favorable vote to pass. To prevent conflicts of interest, members abstain from voting on proposals for which the core data are based on research that they published or supervised.

Proposals reviewed each year form the basis for publication of the annual supplements to the Check-list. Proposals and votes may be subject to change until the annual supplement is published, if new data are brought to the attention of the Committee. Proposals that do not pass may be resubmitted at a later date if additional data are published in favor of the proposal. 

In documenting species’ distribution, the Committee generally defers to state committees and to the American Birding Association for acceptance of records. 

Current & Prior NACC Proposals

English Names

The Committee has established Guidelines for English Bird Names that it follows when reviewing proposals. Authors of proposals also should consider these guidelines when submitting a proposal that would result in an English name change. 

Additional guidelines and comments on English names can be found here:

A Guide to Forming and Capitalizing Compound Names of Birds in English – Auk 1978

Spelling rules – IOC World Bird List

Use of hyphens in group bird name – South American Classification Committee

On hyphens and phylogeny – WJO 2009

From the field

Millions of songbirds that breed across North America converge on a tiny region of Colombia called the Darién during their migration each year, as shown by research recently published in The Condor. This is what the researchers call a migratory Plenty of studies, especially in “birdy” places like shade-grown coffee farms, have shown that birds can provide an economically valuable service to farmers by eating pest insects. But what about in the huge swathes of farmland that cover much of the U.S.? To find out, the researchers behind a recent study in The Condor set up mesh “exclosures” over corn and soybean plants to see how keeping out birds but not insects would affect crops' success. They found that birds had a positive effect on corn crop yield, but a negative effect on soybean crop yield in the adjacent field. For the many farmers that use a corn-corn-soybean rotation schedule, this may suggest economic gain in the long run. Photos by Daryl Coldren and Megan Garfinkel. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #ecology #conservation #science #agriculture #midwestThe sunbirds are a group of nectar-eating songbirds from Africa and Asia that are a sort of Old World counterpart of hummingbirds. A recent paper in The Condor offered a new reason to prioritize sunbird conservation beyond just At Michigan State I teach two courses, Ecology and Tropical Biology. Each fall during the Tropical Biology course we have a “Tropical Thanksgiving.” Each group of students is assigned a plant family with a distribution primarily in the tropics, and students need to uncover a species in the plant family that humans eat. Then they bring in a dish prepared with that species, like pineapple upside down cake, brownies, or banana cream pie. Our Tropical Thanksgivings tend to be heavy on desserts! #ecology #tropicalecology #tropicalbiology #ethnobotany #botany #plantbiology #thanksgiving
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[Thanks, Catherine! If YOU are an AOS member and would like to be featured here for a week, please get in touch.]We have worked in Panama and Costa Rica in areas undergoing forest restoration. Birds play vital roles in restoration systems by consuming insects that can damage young trees. They also disperse seeds of plants and provide pollination services. Tropical birds are also just cool! Photo credits include Sean Williams. #ornithology #wildlife #science #birds #ecology #conservation #restoration #neotropicalbirds
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]We have investigated a number of tactics to deter pest birds in orchards. Inflatable tube-men appear effective in some contexts, if farmers move them around and use enough of them. We have had mixed results with drones; some models and some flight trajectories are likely to be more effective than others in deterring crop-eating birds. Photo credits include Shayna Wiefrich and Ben Hawes. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #science #agriculture #orchards #womeninstem
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]We recently investigated the roles American Kestrels can play in pest management in fruit-production systems. Working with famers in Michigan, we built and installed kestrel nest boxes in sweet cherry orchards. While kestrels nest in the boxes, they provision their young with arthropods, mammals, and birds that consume the cherries. Kestrels also reduce fruit-eating bird activity in the orchards with their presence. Photo credits include Amanda LaFay and Craig Sklarczyk. #ornithology #birds #wildlife #science #raptors #kestrels #orchards #ecology #womeninstem
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[Our thanks to Catherine Lindell, Editor-in-Chief of AOS journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications, who's taking over this account for the week!]
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