Is Banded Stilt actually a Banded Avocet?

Is Banded Stilt actually a Banded Avocet? Image was taken near Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. © Jan C. Wegener

Back in 2004 scientists published a supertree hypothesis as a framework for future molecular studies on shorebirds. According to their concept the family Recurvirostridae is divided into two subfamilies: Himantopodinae and Recurvirostinae. Surprisingly, the tribe Cladorhynchini with the single genus Cladorhynchus is placed under the subfamily Recurvirostinae and and not under the Himantopodinae. This is opposite to the taxonomic order of most authorities. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t explain this case in detail.

In John H. Boyd’s Charadriiformes tree (TiF Checklist) Cladorhynchus is a sister genus to Himantopus, thus placed under the Himantopodinae subfamily. The Banded Stilt was first described by the French ornithologist, Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1816. The protonym was Recurvirostra leucocephala which was replaced by Cladorhynchus leucocephala and later Cladorhynchus leucocephalus. 

Position of the genus Cladorhynchus according to Charadriiformes supertree concept by Gavin et al.

Position of the genus Cladorhynchus according to Boyd’s Charadriiformes Tree.

Morphologically the Banded Stilt looks to be an intermediate evolutionary ‘unit’ between Avocets and Stilts. The bulkier, avocet-like body, the avocet-like vocalisation or the alternate plumage suggest relation to Avocets, while the fine bill, even if that is slightly upcurved, resembles to Stilts. Similar to Red-necked Avocets, Banded Stilts are living nomad life and travelling large distances in the desert to find suitable nesting habitats. Furthermore, they often form large mixed flocks.

Vieillot initial naming suggests he classified Banded Stilt as avocet. According to the supertree of Gavin et al, Banded Stilt is more closely related to Avocets than to Stilts. Naming an avocet as Banded Stilt is a bit fumbling then.

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