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The Black Storm-Petrel was first described as Procellaria melania by C. L. Bonaparte in 1854 from specimens taken off the coast of California, likely near San Francisco (31, 32) or San Diego (Islas Coronado; 33, 8). It was subsequently placed in the monotypic genus Loomelania, and then in genus Oceanodroma based on similarity to various other storm-petrels (e.g., 34; see 17).
Recent analyses of DNA sequences for the Black Storm-Petrel and its closest relatives indicated non-monophyly for species in the genus Oceanodroma (35), a finding consistent with earlier phylogenetic analyses based on smaller data sets of molecular sequences and species (e.g., 36, 37). In terms of nomenclature, this phylogeny is consistent with subsuming both Oceanodroma and Halocyptena into the genus Hydrobates, as in Carboneras and Bonan (38), or with resurrecting Loomelania. However, following Clements et al. (39), this account currently maintains genus Oceanodroma for the Black Storm-Petrel pending further review.
No geographic variation has been reported.
No subspecies are recognized. The Matsudaira's Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma matsudairae), initially described as a subspecies of the Black Storm-Petrel (O. melania matsudariae), is now considered a separate species.
Storm-petrels as a group are placed into two clades, one with northern hemisphere species (Hydrobatidae) and another with southern hemisphere species (Oceanitidae) (40, 37, 35, 41, 39). The single species most closely related to the Black Storm-Petrel is uncertain. Recent analyses of storm-petrels by Wallace et al. (35) suggested that Black Storm-Petrel is most closely related to Markham’s Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma markhami), but further sampling is justified to corroborate that result. The next closest relationship for Black Storm-Petrel is with a clade that includes the Least Storm-Petrel (O. microsoma) and Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrel (O. tethys). Earlier studies of storm-petrel species relationships and characteristics were presented by Austin (17), Matthews (42), Murphy (8), and Ainley (2).