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Taxonomy updates, how-to

Installing updates

Taxonomy updates are made available via the Bird Journal library, as are updates to checklists & synonym packs. When an update is available, you'll see a notification badge: (Desktop apps only at the moment)

Open the library by pressing the Library button and select the Updates tab. You'll see the list of updates to be installed including their release notes. Press Update All to install them. (It's not possible to install items individually.)

The update will take a few seconds to complete. Other devices running Bird Journal will sync the updates automatically.

Note: Installing taxonomy updates is supported on all Bird Journal apps, but it is required to use the [v5] desktop app to view changes made and to resolve any issues.

Note: Versions 1, 2 and 3 of Bird Journal do not support taxonomic updates. Upgrading to the latest Bird Journal will allow you to receive regular taxonomic updates.

What actually happens during the taxonomy update?

Taxonomies change in a number of ways. Species can be added, removed, renamed & rearranged. Many of these can be applied automatically, but some need your input. Bird Journal takes care not to lose accuracy during these changes. For example, when a subspecies has been split to a new monotypic species (has no subspecies) this change will be made automatically. To become a polytypic species automatically would be to lose accuracy.

Species or subspecies that have been removed are marked as deprecated. They'll still show in your journal after installing the update (until you resolve this later), but clearly marked as deprecated. They are no longer available when entering new observations.

Once the update completes, you'll be notified if there are issues to resolve. You can address them there and then, or later as and when you get time.  See below for details on this.

Spotting what's changed

Details of the updates applied and changes made to species you're using can be found in the Change Details tab of the Taxonomic Updates screen. Press Tools > Taxonomic Updates and select the Change Details tab:

This includes details of how the taxonomy, the parts that you're using, have changed. It does not include any changes you've made to your records as a result. When species have been removed (and are deprecated) they appear struck out. In these cases, suggested alternatives are often provided for you to pick between. You can export the list of changes for easier reference while reviewing your records.

If your records use a mixture of taxonomies you may also wish to export your species list before & after the update to better understand how it has changed. Bird Journal maps equivalent species & subspecies between taxonomies, depending on your settings for "Primary" & "Secondary" taxonomy.

Resolving issues

Now for the harder part. Where species are split, your records may need to be updated. The reason is that your records, unless you're recording using subspecies, do not contain the detail to know if what you observed is the original species or one of the split species.

A split is considered to be when a subspecies becomes an entirely new species. There are many cases however where a subspecies moves to a different, existing species. It's possible the actual race you observed is no longer considered part of the original species, so Bird Journal considers this case a split too, giving you the chance to review and amend your records.

Update issues can be found on the Taxonomic Updates screen Issues tab, opened by pressing Tools > Taxonomic Updates.

Removed and split species/subspecies are listed as issues. Possible/suggested replacements are provided where available.

A species is presented as removed when a species becomes monotypic and the polytypic species grouping is no longer required. This is usually the result of subspecies being moved/split into a different species. A subspecies may be removed if it is "lumped" with another (e.g. the nominate).

Note: When applying the IOC 6.2 update, you may in some cases see a species being replaced with [the monotypic version of] itself, and no other suggestions. This was a shortcoming in how we prepared the IOC 6.2 update for Bird Journal, which we will avoid in subsequent updates. To resolve it, just perform the replace to the suggested species as usual.

As a minimum, removed species/subspecies should be resolved. Not resolving these may in some cases cause your species count to be incorrectly higher. Splits can be ignored as they may not be relevant to your records, though it is recommended to review them. Both Clements and IOC taxonomies include range data that can help you decide between replacements. Some of your records may need different replacements to others, for the same species, depending largely on where they were observed.

Applying replacements

Uses of species/subspecies can be replaced using the Replace Species feature. This feature can be opened directly from within the Taxonomic Updates screen by pressing Apply Replacement...

Find and Replace fields will be pre-filled using the selected suggestion. You can use the filters and checkboxes to select a subset of your records to replace. Replacements can be applied to checklists and synonym packs you have created too; select the Checklists or Synonym Packs tabs to control where replacements will be made.

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