As my benchmark list, I use what has become known as 'Clements'. Jim Clements's world checklist has long been the American Birding Association's preferred global view, and until Howard and Moore was finally brought up to scratch by Edward Dickinson in 2003, it was to my mind the only world checklist worth having. I got to know Jim a little through correspondence and was delighted when he accepted the invitation to be an Advisory Panel member on Birdwatch. But since his passing in 2005 his legacy to the ornithological world has changed somewhat under the management of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which inherited responsbility for the Clements checklist and proceeded to put its own stamp on the publication.
The latest effects of this can be seen in the most recent (18 December 2009) update. Gone is the handy list of splits, lumps, revisions, decisions and corrections. Instead we have a downloadable Excel spreadsheet, an explanatory overview of policy and strategy, and some summary statistics. It will be a while before I figure out exactly what the big changes to the world order of birds are, but in the meantime here are the key stats with which Cornell ends its update:
- Number of families: 223
- Number of taxa: 31573
- Number of species: 9995
- Number of unique subspecies: 21107