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Will eBird update my life lists when splits occur?

Entering your lists in eBird is one of the best ways to keep them up to date. In short, eBird will update your lists when the ranges are unique enough that we can do so.

Bird taxonomy is constantly changing and eBird stays as current as possible, following annual Clements taxonomic updates as they occur in August/September. 

If you enter your bird sightings in eBird and you know you are seeing a species that is a potential "split", the chances are that there is a corresponding eBird "group". For example, Yellow-rumped Warbler has several options for entry. You could enter any of the following:

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (West Mexico)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Goldman's)

The first option refers to the current species, Yellow-rumped Warbler. The other options (which we refer to as "groups" or "identifiable sub-specific forms") correspond to subspecies that have sometimes been considered separate species and which may be considered unique species again in the future. If you know which one you saw, the best practice is to enter that form. Remember that you can always enter any bird from our taxonomy on any list: just hit the "add a species" button and type any part of the name to find it.

If you enter your Yellow-rumped Warblers at the group level, they will automatically update as any splits happen. For example, if you have specified all your Yellow-rumped Warblers as "Myrtle" or "Audubon's", they would simply change to the species Myrtle Warbler and Audubon's Warbler if that split occurs.

If you enter them as "Yellow-rumped Warbler", we will assign them to the appropriate species if and only if we can be 99.9% sure that we know which one you saw. Since Myrtle Warbler is the only expected subspecies East of the Mississippi River, those records will be automatically changed (hopefully anyone lucky enough to see an Audubon's would have noted that specifically). West of the Mississippi River though, one might find either species in migration and winter, so we will not be able to update these records for you. They will then be listed as Myrtle/Audubon's Warbler, which is literally the same bird as Yellow-rumped Warbler (i.e., the original report did not differentiate between Myrtle and Audubon's).

With many tropical species this is easy to do, since their ranges do not overlap. However, for migratory species, we strongly encourage the use of eBird "groups".

In rare cases where species are lumped, it is much easier to make updates, and these are always performed automatically for our users.

Also, it should be mentioned that if you enter data after a taxonomic update has split a certain species, it is your responsibility to choose the correct option. Our taxonomy stories do help with what species occur where. Our review team may also help to alert you if you choose the wrong species after a split.

In this way, eBird provides a fantastic service for birders to keep their personal lists up to date. But we strogly recommend carefully checking your lists after taxonomic updates to make sure they are correct!
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