For many years two subspecies have been recognized, nominate hasitata of Hispaniola, Guadeloupe, and Dominica; and caribbaea, formerly of Jamaica, but which now probably is extinct (e.g. Carte 1866, Jouanin and Mougin 1979, AOU 1998). More recently many authors consider carribaea to be a separate species, Jamaican Petrel Pterodroma caribbaea. However, note that Howell and Patteson (2008) have provided evidence highlighting a closer examination of nominate hasitata, in that it may contain several cryptic taxa. If molt patterns indicate different species, then geographic variation within nominate hasitata may not be particularly likely. However, if molt patterns are not reflective of species limits, geographic variation as represented by white-, black-, and intermediate-faced plumages may have some relevance.
Kuhl, 1820. The origin of this name is from the Latin 'haesito,' the root of the English word "hesitate," indicating the uncertainty Kuhl had concerning the recognition of this species (Simons et al. 2006).
Imber (1985) recognized four subgenera within Pterodroma. Based on a survey of morphological characters, Imber placed hasitata within the largest subgenus, Pterodroma. Included in the subgenus Pterodroma were all other species of Pterodroma that breed in the North Atlantic (Pterodroma cahow, Pterodroma madeira, Pterodroma feae), as well as species that breed in the South Atlantic, the South Pacific, and the southern Indian Ocean. Jesus et al. (2009) investigated the phylogenetics of North Atlantic gadfly petrels using both morphological characters and mitrochondrial DNA sequences. Their survey included most (but not all) species of Imber's subgenus Pterodroma, and largely confirmed the monophyly of this group. Within this assemblage, hasitata is basal to a clade that includes cahow and feae.
Other names: Diablotín, Capped Petrel, Las Brujas. Diablotín means "little devil", descriptive of the petrels' nocturnal habits and the odd-sounding vocalizations, which likely suggested to locals the presence of evil spirits in the dark. A mountain peak where it formerly bred in Haïti is named Morne Diablotin.