Ibycter americanus is monotypic. Earlier authors recognized a northern subspecies, guatimalensis, for populations from northern Central America (e.g. Friedmann 1950, Wetmore 1965), which was reported to be larger in size. Measurements of guatimalensis and other populations overlap, however, and so recognition of two subspecies is not warranted (Blake 1977).
Described as Falco americanus (Boddaert 1783), with type locality Cayenne
This species long was classified in the genus Daptrius, together with Daptrius ater (Black Caracara) (e.g, Friedmann 1950, Wetmore 1965). Phylogenetic analysis of syrigneal morphology revealed that instead Daptrius ater was sister to the genus Milvago, whereas "Daptrius" americanus was sister to the genus Caracara (Griffiths 1994). Incorporation of genetic data, from DNA sequences, did not support the sister relationship between americanus and Caracara, but confirmed that americanus and ater are not closely related (Griffiths 1999, Griffiths et al. 2004). Consequently americanus now is classified in a monotypic genus, Ibycter.