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Type: Article
Published: 2020-06-09
Page range: 554–574
Abstract views: 84
PDF downloaded: 3

Integrative taxonomy of the Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus complex (Accipitriformes: Accipitridae) in India

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.
Department of Integrative Biology and Michigan State Museum, East Lansing, MI 48824 USA. and Bird Group, The Natural History Museum-UK, Akeman Street, Tring HP23 6AP, UK.
Institute for Biology, NTNU.
Aves morphology genetics vocalization integrative taxonomy


The Changeable Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus cirrhatus complex is represented by two taxa in mainland India: N. c. cirrhatus in the northern plains and peninsula and N. c. limnaeetus in the Himalayan foothills. Traditionally these taxa have been regarded as subspecies of one species, but recently they have been proposed to be different species. Here, we use an integrative taxonomic approach based on considerations of plumage, biometrics, genetics and vocalizations. Several plumage characters are significantly different between the two taxa, but crest length was the only one of 56 characters that was diagnostically different, with no overlap. About 30% of the birds had intermediate crest lengths, suggesting that they are hybrids or backcrosses, as also supported by the microsatellite results. PCAs of adult plumage show many intermediate individuals, irrespective of whether these birds were collected near a putative contact zone. There is restricted gene flow between the two taxa, presumably as a result of their largely allopatric distributions. On current knowledge, reproductive isolation appears to be weak at best, and we therefore recommend continuing to regard limnaeetus and cirrhatus as conspecific.



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