2007-A-1: Parentheses in Aimophila names


2007-A-2: Technical Corrections


2007-A-3: Adoption of IOC guidelines on English names

NO. First, regarding the general concept, I would actually be interested in hearing “the arguments for adoption of a universal list of English names,” which the submitters do not state in the proposal. Second, while I regard some of the changes as neutral, others such as “Storm Petrel” actually seem to create confusion, in this case with the regular Petrels and Giant Petrels, whereas before it was clear that a Storm-Petrel was a quite distinctive type of bird. Presumably the IOC committee has done the same thing with Diving-Petrels, creating even more confusion.

NO. I think that there is something to be said for global uniformity, but I don’t think that the lack of standardization of English names has been a hindrance. As a committee we should strive for stability, and wholesale adoption of this proposal will cause instability without any clear benefits. That said, I would be willing to consider individual changes on a case-by-case basis, if there is a compelling reason.

NO. We now have a North American subcommittee of the IOC. Is it this group’s goal to push through all of Gill and Wright’s changes, one by one? Or is this just another end run? Unlike the actual names used, I do believe in some sort of uniform standard on hyphens, IF there actually can be agreement by all English speaking (and using) committees dealing with bird nomenclature. It’s entirely unclear to me who this subcommittee speaks for. The North American subcommittee of the IOC involves changing the names of some 135 species and that is not to be lightly done.

NO. Perhaps we could be more consistent, but I think we could just as easy come up with a set of criteria as simple and with an equal number of exceptions as Gill et al. to justify our rules for hyphens. I still do not see much need for adopting a world-wide system for English names.

NO. I’m sure this proposal will engender lots of committee discussion. I’m voting no primarily because I think the proposed removal of many hyphens is a poor compromise in many cases.

NO. The hyphen is especially useful for making group membership clear in cases such as Storm-Petrel, Wood-Partridge, where the group is a very distinctive subset and/or not even a true member of that group (e.g. Wood-Partridge). Some of their rules do make sense but they are quite complex and not exactly memorable, and I would not choose to adopt them as a group, if only for the above reason.

NO. I like the AOU’s current system, with hyphenated group names, and see no compelling reason to change it. Those hyphens are tools for indicating relationships. If/when revealed not to suggest correct relationships (e.g., if “Screech-Owl” were not a monophyletic group), then I would vote to remove on case-by-case basis. The lack of hyphen under IOC system with respect to “Storm Petrel” is the turning point for me, because the hyphen here is useful for distinguishing members of the Hydrobatidae from members of the Procellariidae, many of which are also called Something Petrel.

NO. We could consider some of these on a case-by-base basis, but not the whole lot.

NO. At first, I thought that the new rules promulgated by the “IOC” committee regarding hyphens was basically equivalent to our rules in most respects, but just with a bias against hyphens. Because of that, I would vote against it because of a preference for the status quo. But I was willing to consider switching, if it could be demonstrated that a significant subset of the English-speaking world used a hyphenation scheme like the “IOC” one.

However, in thinking about the consequences of their name changes, I am convinced that in fact the “IOC” guidelines are a mistake, beyond an unnecessary change to the status quo. The problem is that their rules do not care about the issue of species-groups. Whether something belongs to a group or not is effectively irrelevant to having a hyphen under the “IOC” guidelines. The fact that the “IOC” gudielines do not effectively deal with this issue I consider a problem.

My experience is that people don’t have problems with the hyphenation (I’d be willing to at least consider that if I had examples of bird books that have messed up the hyphenation rules). But more serious to me is the fact that the “IOC” rules do not allow you to distinguish among birds that belong to the same “group” and those that do not. A quick set of examples from North America are North Hawk-Owl is confused with true Hawk-Owls of the genus Ninox, Lesser Ringed Plover and Common Ringed Plover are not clearly defined as either a group (what we would call the Ringed-Plovers) or not. Our treatment without hyphens means that we do not consider them a group. The “IOC” treatment without hyphens means exactly nothing except that the “IOC” group doesn’t like hyphens.

With our compound bird names, it can be unclear whether a term is part of the first name or the last name, and as I read the rules of hyphenation in the style manuals, they are basically set up to provide clarity of meaning, so you use hyphens when it helps clarity and leave them out when it is not needed. I personally can’t see that we’ve advanced things when the obvious group Storm-Petrels becomes Storm Petrels and becomes lost among all of the other petrels.

One aside, I think they are right about Mountaingem being preferable to Mountain-gem, so although I disagree with their Policy, this is one where I think our rules and their rules agree, and we should change it. This probably requires a new proposal.

NO. The proposal produces a species-by-species list showing the current AOU name in the first column and the IOC-proposed name in the second column; I am concerned that the latter is missing the final word in the common name fully 50 times. That aside, while I personally am not opposed to most of the changes suggested, I am concerned with stability and am not convinced that the broad changes suggested provide gains that outweigh the instability caused. I hope to learn more about this Gill & Wright publication and how (or how not) the CLC interacted with the IOC to produce the suggested list.

2007-A-4: Split Anas zonorhyncha from A. poecilorhyncha

YES, tentatively. It sounds like these ducks are primarily breeding assortatively where they overlap, but this is an Old World issue and I think we should be following someone for whom this question is more on target.

YES. There seems to be good evidence for assortative mating in sympatry.

YES. I gather from Rasmussen’s India book that the race haringtoni is very similar to the nominate race.

YES, just the kind of basic fieldwork that is necessary out to figure out species boundaries.


YES, definitely. These two groups differ more from each other than some other mallard-group species and have now been shown to mate assortively.

YES. Small N, obviously, but nonetheless suggest that burden of proof would now fall on those who would treat them as conspecific.


YES. Evidence of sympatry and assortative mating gives better than average data to support split.

YES. I like the way species limits are determined behaviorally by the birds themselves in this case.

2007-A-5: Remove parvus from Hemignathus to Magumma

YES. This species split appears to be supported on both morphological and genetic grounds.

YES. mtDNA and allozyme data (Johnson et al. 1989, Fleischer et al. 1998) as well as morphologic characters provide sufficient evidence that parvus does not belong in Hemignathus.


YES. Although including parvus within Hemignathus does not make Hemignathus paraphyletic, I think that it is more reasonable to have a morphologically and phylogenetically clearly defined group of Hemignathus (s. strictu).


NO, tentatively. I agree that the generic characters should at least be defined first. Those morphological characters given are minor and typical of species within the same genus, and even of some subspecies.

YES. As long as parvus plus rest of Hemignathus form a monophyletic group, then the decision is largely subjective.Thus, if those familiar with these birds like the split, then might as well go with it.


YES. I am not hugely impressed by the data supporting this split, but it does seem like Anianiau is outside the rest of Hemignathus. It is probably best to split it off into Magumma.

NO. “Doesn’t fit” is a far cry from having clear generic limits described. Until that is done, I do not think a monotypic genus should be sanctioned. Maybe “No characters were given” does not apply to the whole history of this taxon as a proposed genus, but until the generic characters of this genus are formally described (i.e., how different from Hemignathus), its genetic sister relationship to Hemignathus should cause it to remain in that genus until there is a solid morphological basis for its movement out. It sounds like that would be easy for some of the cited workers to do, if indeed it hasn’t been done adequately already. I just do not want to move something to a genus whose limits have not been formally described.

2007-A-6: Separate Pelecanus thagus from P. occidentalis (SACC #271)

YES. Although I’m not convinced that these forms overlap during breeding (see Cadena’s comments from SACC site), I think the evidence is strong enough to split thagus from the other Brown Pelican forms. It differs from the other forms in behavior and qualitative morphological characters as much as various white forms do from each other, and the size difference is substantial.

YES. There are obvious phenotypic differences, as well as ecological and behavioral differences, that would support species status. If they really do overlap during times of potential breeding, the lack of known hybridization is also very convincing.

YES. If soft part colors are significant in mate selection, than the CA birds might need to be looked at in some detail.

YES. The thorough analyses of Al should be published, but we have made such decisions before with much less published data.

NO, but only because this split seems to be based on yet-unpublished information – otherwise it seems warranted.

YES. The burden of proof should be on those who consider this very distinct form to be conspecific with occidentalis (indeed, is anyone firmly in this camp?), especially since there does not seem to be a published rationale.

YES, based on comparative levels of differentiation for taxa treated as species in that family. I’ll stick with my SACC comments: “Placed in the comparative framework of species limits in current classification of Pelecanus, Alvaro’s synopsis places burden on those who would continue to rank thagus as a subspecies, in my opinion. With major differences in body size, bare parts coloration, and plumage, thagus seems to differ as much from occidentalis as some of the white pelicans do from one another.”


YES. The South American committee has split, and Peruvian Pelicans are really pretty different from Brown Pelicans. Besides the morphological characters mentioned, there is also a difference in timing of breeding season.

NO. Alvaro Jaramillo writes a very convincing proposal. Lack of apparent hybridization in a region of overlap is particularly convincing, as is contrast with white pelican species variation. Publish a slightly upgraded summary like this in a peer-reviewed journal (it does seem to contain the additional information Wetmore was wishing for) and I would vote to accept it.

2007-A-7: Transfer Piculus rubiginosus and P. auricularis from Piculus to Colaptes (SACC #265)

YES. This change of genus is supported by genetic, morphological, and vocal data.

YES. Multiple lines of evidence (genetic, phenotypic, vocal) support this change.

YES. I can see taking these species out of Piculus, but am not sure about merging them into Colaptes. At least the ground loving Colaptes I know well (C. auratus and C. chrysoides and have seen and heard C. fernandinae) look, act, and sound little like the arboreal loving species discussed above.

This should be a separate motion, but Howell and Webb (1995) split P. aeruginosus of northeast Mexico from the widespread P. rubiginosus on the basis of distinct vocalizations. Our note currently just says that they are separate groups but say nothing about them havingdifferent vocalizations, let alone them sometimesbeing treated as separate species.



YES, but with reservations given the complexity of these groups and the fact that not all taxa have been included in the phylogenetic analyses. As suggested, Colaptes itself as currently constituted appears to be somewhat heterogeneous. The characterization of vocalizations as a generic character seems questionable to me – some South Asian woodpecker taxa (e.g., Dryocopus javensis, Chrysocolaptes lucidus) still treated as races vary intraspecifically and quite strikingly in vocalizations. Even if these were split into multiple species, vocalizations still wouldn’t be a generic character in these groups. I also think that we should include at least a note about the fact that some treat aeruginosus as a separate species and why.

YES. Genetic data look solid and are consistent with phenotypic characters. As noted, we now need a proposal on aeruginosus.



YES. Multiple lines of evidence, genetic and morphological, make a convincing case.

2007-A-8: Transfer Veniliornis fumigatus to Picoides (SACC #263)

YES. I would prefer to be able to place these former Veniliornis species into a more stable genus than Picoides, given that Picoides appears to be paraphyletic and that the species under discussion are not part of the type species-group, but for now it seems reasonable to at least place them under the genus name that contains their closest relatives – even though we will probably need to make a further name change when more data become available.

NO. I’m inclined to agree with those on the NACC and SACC who favor placement of Veniliornis fumigatus as incertae sedis, with an explanatory note and a comment about its likely relationship.

YES. I can live with this as a temporary solution and then later deal with the larger systematic issues involving Picoides.

YES. I too can live with this as a temporary solution and then later deal with the larger systematic issues involving Picoides. No use having something so blatantly incorrect. We have often sat for too long on something, awaiting a publication that takes forever to make it to print.

NO. It seems best to me to wait on more complete taxon sampling, and on data from multiple loci. This is clearly a complicated situation with substantial potential for further changes when more complete data are available. I would favor the suggestion of Cadena in the SACC notes to “place ‘Veniliornis fumigatus‘ as incertae sedis regarding its generic placement.”

YES, reluctantly. Either way it’s a two-step process. If we put it in Incertae Sedis, that is less informative than moving it to the group with which we know it belongs, even though we believe that whole group will have to be placed in a different genus.

YES. Genetic data look solid and are consistent with phenotypic characters. Even if only a temporary change, maintaining this species in Veniliornis is no longer tenable.

NO. I’d like to see more information. I think (and I can’t really say just why I feel this way) that Picoides is a mess and needs to be revised, so for now might go with incertae sedis in this case. But I do not feel strongly about this. I am influenced by Bill Moore’s comments (SACC site).


NO. With Picoides limits still unresolved and morphological convergence present I would like to see more data brought to bear before making a move (the phrase “for now” is a real red flag). More taxon sampling and more loci are needed to know what is going on, and “for now” incertae sedis is warranted. The argument that a classification should be dynamic is accepted, but I take it to mean that long-term stasis is bad, not that change is good. Getting Veniliornis fumigatus right is a two-step process, with the second step presently invisible. Taking one that we know is almost certainly wrong (it will not remain long in Picoides) to get closer to what is right imbalances dynamism over conservatism. Let’s wait, call it incertae sedis for now with appropriate notes to make its direction apparent, then take the second, appropriate step when we know what genus name really applies.

2007-A-9: Split Conopias parvus from C. albovittatus (SACC #251)

YES. The evidence overwhelmingly supports the species-level distinctiveness of parvus and albovittatus. That there are no quantitative voice data is unfortunate, but the many independent qualitative published descriptions (and recordings) of vocal differences strongly indicate that these are distinct species.

YES, but only because it has been passed by the SACC. I agree with others on both committees that the lack of published vocal and genetic data is a problem.

A weak YES. I can understand Remsen’s strong preference for having a published paper on the subject, but it sounds as if they were lumped at some point for no good reason and all those who know them say they are clearly different. And I’m deferring to the decision of the SACC.

YES, but only if the SAAC has passed the proposal.

YES. The proposal notes that the available phylogenetic info on these taxa might have come from Jason Mobley’s 2002 dissertation. I called Mobley to get more details: these two taxa are sister lineages, separated by 5.8% cyt b and 6.7 % ND2 uncorrected divergence, a level of mitochondrial differentiation that is higher than that between a number of undisputed species-level taxa in the group. I’m not sure if dissertations are considered ‘publications’ for the purposes of the committee, and hence whether these molecular results are formally ‘published’ or not. Since dissertations are available and citable, I think that they technically are publications in those senses. Mobley’s mtDNA sequences, however, are not yet in GenBank.

YES. Clearly these are as distinct in several ways as many other species, and more so than many. The fact that the supporting data are available in commercial tape-recordings and in a Ph.D. dissertation is sufficient for us to reverse the lumping done without published rationale.

NO. I’m sure the split is correct, but until all the data are published in a form that transcends qualitative anecdotes, I favor keeping as is, on a matter of principle.I’ll stick with my SACC comment: “As noted by Kevin and Alvaro, the vocal differences may be clearcut, but they have never been published and analyzed in a comparative setting. I think that as a committee of scientists, we should maintain the stance that until the data are actually presented and formally analyzed, status quo stays unchanged, no matter how painful. Listening to a couple of recordings from a couple of spots within the reasonably large and perhaps fragmented ranges of these two suggests that two species are involved but can only be used to spur more analyses, not used as status-changing evidence. As for the molecular data, not only is it unpublished (therefore essentially hearsay) but there is no such thing as “species level” distances between two sister taxa. I look forward to changing my vote on this one when data are published.”

YES, although I would like to see the voice data published. This is another of those cases that the reason for the lump was never clearly stated, and that in my mind is a reason to this, published voice data or not.

YES. I realize that the published data is marginal on this split of Conopias, but this split is obvious if you have experience with the two species. It seems a little quixotic to me for the North American committee to keep these together given that the South American committee splits, and that it has no nomenclatural effect on the Central American taxon. Basically this is not overturning a treatment that was created based on data, but rather it overturns a treatment based on tradition. For that reason, I am willing to make the split with a somewhat inadequate published account.

NO. I do not know these taxa, but to be consistent with several of my guiding principles I find this proposal to come up short. First, without the data on GenBank, Mobley’s dissertation is effectively unpublished. Second, single-locus species limits determinations are abhorrent to me (I do not accept that there is an mtDNA distance threshold across which lineages become species). Finally, it is not clear how these differences rise above those of subspecies in this group (at least not to my reading). Classic Mayr principles of contrasting the differences present here with species that are clearly so in this group would alleviate my concerns, but that does not seem to have been done yet in a published forum. Thus, while I agree that justifications for lumping were not evident, I find an argument that they differ vocally and genetically and lightly in plumage (or maybe it’s greatly – I don’t know the group) – which collective argument remains unpublished – to be too weak to base a rectification upon if we are not to repeat the errors of the past. (I now find myself reading the SACC responses and agree with Remsen.)

2007-A-10: Change classification of the Formicariidae (SACC #235)

MIXED. (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: Formicarius, Chamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) YES. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) NO. Erect family Pittasomidae.

It seems clear that there are three distinctive groups within the Formicariidae: Formicarius/ChamaezaPittasoma, and Grallaria/Hylopezus/Myrmothera/Grallaricula. The various subproposals delineate different ways of dealing with these groups. Accepting subproposal C (regarding family Grallariidae) seems relatively simple and straightforward. The evidence supporting a sister relationship between the Rhinocryptidae and Formicarius/Chamaeza is not strong, making subproposal A the choice over subproposal B. The only really contentious issue here is whether to include Pittasoma in the Conopophagidae (subproposals D and E). The support for a sister relationship between Pittasoma and Conopophaga is strong and consists of several types of data, meaning that either subproposal would be acceptable. I support subproposal D rather than subproposal E, favoring placement of Pittasoma in the Conopophagidae. Although Pittasoma differs morphologically and behaviorally from the very uniform gnateaters, the uniformity of the Conopophaga species will continue to be expressed by their “congenericity”, whereas the inclusion of Pittasoma in the family provides more information (i.e., of a sister relationship between Pittasoma and Conopophaga) than would the creation of a second monogeneric family. It is also worth noting that Pittasoma and Conopophaga are no more different than the more distinctive members of many avian families.

MIXED. (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: FormicariusChamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) YES. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) NO. Erect family Pittasomidae.

NO for now. I know little about these groups, but I agree with Stiles comments inhis SACC vote that we should await the publication (or at least acceptance) of R. Moyle et al. in the literature before voting. Perhaps that has now happened?

MIXED. (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: FormicariusChamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) YES. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) NO. Erect family Pittasomidae.

MIXED. (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: FormicariusChamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) YES. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) NO. Erect family Pittasomidae. I would be more comfortable with my vote on subproposals c and d above if the Moyle data were published.

MIXED. (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: FormicariusChamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) YES. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) NO. Erect family Pittasomidae.

MIXED. (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: FormicariusChamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) YES. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) NO. Erect family Pittasomidae.

MIXED. I know little about these birds, and have not carefully studied the studies. Having said that, however, I would be happy with the recommendations which also seems to be the concensis of the SA committee, i.e.: (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: FormicariusChamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) YES. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) NO. Erect family Pittasomidae.

MIXED. (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: FormicariusChamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) NO. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) YES. Erect family Pittasomidae. I am not confident of my vote on D and E, but I checked and this is how I voted on the South American committee’s vote on this as well. My problem is that the Conopophagidae with just Conopophaga are a really well-defined group morphologically and ecologically, and Pittasoma really doesn’t fit in with them.

MIXED. I may need to read some papers before I can be a comfortable voter here. I accept that Formicariidae is not monophyletic on present evidence, but with a lack of strong support for “deep” relationships, are we really dealing with three family-level taxa here, or are some important relatives still missing from the discussion? I’d prefer to wait and see the Moyle study published. Phrases like “a matter of taste” and the indication that a nomenclatural picture at this level becomes clearer with the Moyle data argues for waiting. If I accept all that is written in the proposal, then I would vote: (a) YES. Formicariidae restricted to Formicarius and Chamaeza. (b) NO. New circumscription of Formicariidae: FormicariusChamaeza, and the tapaculos. (c) YES. Accept family Grallariidae. (d) YES. Place Pittasoma in Conopophagidae. (e) NO. Erect family Pittasomidae. But I’d like to revisit it with all the papers in front of me, including Moyle’s.