2008-A-1: Change family-level placements of several genera in the Emberizidae and Thraupidae

NO. I agree that this should be a series of proposals.

NO. As evidence that the proposal is premature, unpublished data strongly support Amaurospiza as a tanager.

NO, for now. I agree that some changes are1 due, but I also think we should vote on this as a series of proposals.


NO. Like the others, I feel that this is too much to tackle at once. We should vote on pieces of this proposal (e.g., moves of Caribbean taxa toward Thraupidae, move of Piranga to Cardindalidae, etc.).

NO, pending a more complete phylogenetic reconstruction for these and related groups.

NO. I agree with most others that each of these cases should be dealt with individually.

NO to all, but strictly a procedural objection. I strongly recommend that we treat each genus or set of genera on a case-by-case basis rather than en masse. For example, the degree of support varies in the first group, as does where they would go in the new linear sequence. The Caribbean genera, for example, are in a separate group from those deeply embedded in Thraupidae. Also, as noted in the proposal, PirangaHabia, and Chlorothraupis form a group that needs to be treated as a block. Amaurospiza is indeed in Cardinalidae, with much greater support than, for example, Chlorospingus in Emberizidae. Granatellus is also in the Cardinalidae. However, Saltator is not.

YES. Some change is much needed, and the longer we put it off, the worse.

NO. Like others, I think we need to treat these changes on a one-by one basis. There are different levels of support, and it is not moving one set of species that are all part of the same clade that this proposal suggests doing.

NO. We need to do this genus by genus. I haven’t paid close attention, but my impression is that the evidence is uneven (the proposal also infers this). Rather than move a bunch and have to shuffle some later, let’s move the ones where evidence is strong, one by one.

2008-A-2: Add Crowned Slaty Flycatcher to the list

NO. Wait for a publication. We need to see photos! Panama has a Records Committee (chair is George Angehr: angehrg@si.edu). Have they voted on this?

Update 2 Jan 2009: The new North American Birds (with Elaenia albiceps on the cover) has a photo of the Griseotyrranus (Crowned Slaty Flycatcher) from Panama in the color photo section in the back. I would now change my vote on A-2 to Yes.

YES. 7 votes changed from “No” after publication, without additional comment.

YES. Vote changed from “No” after publication. I haven’t seen the photo but given the distinctiveness of the species I’ll change my vote to yes on this basis.

YES. Vote changed from “No” after publication. It is clearly a Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher (Note that SACC spells this with a hyphen). There is an issue regarding the generic allocation of this species. The proposal uses Griseotyrannus while the South American Committee continues to use Empidonomus for this species, making it congeneric with Empidonomus variusGriseotyrannus was erected by Lanyon for this species because it has a derived and distinctive syrinx. However, both Lanyon’s tree and later molecular work place this species sister to Empidonomus varius. Currently, a number of  sources use Griseotyrannus, while others follow SACC with Empidonomus. I suggest that we continue to use Empidonomus for the upcoming supplement, and I will write a proposal to consider the use of Griseotyrannus as a separate issue.

2008-A-3: Merge Cichlherminia into Turdus

YES. 9 votes without comment.

YES, but bearing in mind that the genus Turdus may eventually prove to require subdivision, which could result in Cichlherminia being treated as monotypic once again.

YES, but I am not entirely happy about this. Cichlherminia does fit into the genus Turdus, but in logo-auk-aou.png” border=”0″ width=”240″ height=”146″ at these papers, there is a lot of uncertainty about the topology in the genus. It looks like there is a Old World clade, and a New World clade, and then a set of things that seem to be pretty unstable in their placement, Cichlherminia among them. Eventually it might be possible to subdivide Turdus to create some rational biogeographic units. The problems are that, first the name-bearing taxon is viscivorus, which is basal or close to it, so if we subdivide things essentially everything loses Turdus. Secondly, relationships among the taxa that don’t fit clearly into the two big clades are all over the map in these studies, so we may not be able to create a small set of reliable genera by splitting up Turdus.

2008-A-4: Change vernacular names of Sharp-tailed Sparrows

YES (option 2). 3 votes without comment.

YES (option 2). I don’t really like “Saltmarsh Sparrow” for reasons given in the proposal, but I think these names are better than the long clunky names.

YES. The English names least like among birders/ornithologists I know. And the sooner we emend this, the better given the recent split.


YES to option 2; the names Nelson’s and Saltmarsh sparrows are reasonably appropriate and a lot less cumbersome than the long versions.

YES. After a decade or more of use, it makes sense to dump “Sharp-tailed” group name and go with the streamlined names. Everyone hates the long, clunky names.

NO. Option #1 – Status Quo.

YES. These are really clunky with Sharp-tailed included, and I don’t think the relationship implied by the name is significant enough to be worth trying to continue to highlight.


2008-A-5: Split Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger from L. affinis

YES. 4 votes without comment.

YES. Although there are no new quantitative data, I vote to split given the lack of rationale for lumping them in the first place and for consistency with SACC.

NO. Although I agree that this is almost certainly the correct course, and that the Peters era merge was most likely without much reason at all, the vocal similarity apparent in the descriptions makes me want some other solid evidence. Although small plumage differences are enough for reproductive isolation in some woodcreeper, other woodcreeper taxa (particularly Dendrocolpates certhia/”concolor“) can vary widely in plumage color but show little or no reproductive isolation.

NO. I support including the note #1.

YES, I would definitely split these for 3 reasons that are in accord: (1) marked plumage differences consistent in degree with those shown by other species of woodcreepers, (2) lack of published justification for the lump, and (3) several recordings from which I made sonagrams, which clearly show distinct differences in song, with those of lacrymiger being very high-pitched (entire song well above 5 kHz, strongest energy 6-9 kHz) while affinis has strongest energy between c. 2.5 and 6 kHz.

YES, for reasons stated in proposal. This one should have been processed more than 10 years ago.

YES. While there is not nearly the evidence to support a split of these species that there is for splitting Savannah Sparrow, which I will vote against below, I think that the fact that there have been alternate treatments of these taxa almost from the beginning means that we are not really overthrowing the status quo. SACC treats these taxa as separate, as do most major South American sources. I can’t see a strong argument for treating them as conspecific given that it won’t effect anything in the Checklist area. There are certainly weak arguments in favor of splitting them, so I vote to follow SACC and split off the South American form from affinis.

NO. I remember thinking the same thing when I carefully examined these in the specimen trays at USNM years ago – it is probably correct. But resorting to the erroneous methods of the past is not the best way to correct this situation. Taxonomy by pen stroke is a slippery slope this committee should not embark upon. The first note is good.

2008-A-6: Adopt a new English name for Cerorhinca monocerata (Charadriiformes, Alcidae)

YES. 2 without comment.

NO. I would welcome a proposal for resurrecting the Horn-billed Puffin of Pallas.

YES. Although “auklet” is well-established for this species, I think we should try to reflect phylogeny as best as we can in English names. And the use of “puffin” has some historical basis.


NO. English names are unreliable indicators of phylogeny. If phylogeny drove English names, we would have to remove “flycatcher” from all tyrannid names, “sparrow” from all emberizid names, “warbler” from all parulid names, etc. And think about Calidris. That said, we have made such changes when involving family-level misplacements, e.g., Schiffornis lost its “Manakin” last name, and Bartramia lost  its “Plover” name. So, I’m tempted by this one because, as the proposal states, it represents an opportunity to have a phylogenetically meaningful English name. All evidence indicates that Cerorhinca is the sister to Lunda + Fratercula. Nonetheless, I favor retaining an entrenched English name (GOOGLE gives 31,400 entries for “Rhinoceros Auklet” and GOOGLE Scholar, 688 citations), relegating “auklet” to morphotype status, and retaining “puffin” for the clade that even many kids can recognize as such. It’s simply a matter of taste, but Rhinos just don’t cut it as “puffins.”

NO. I see no reason to mess with this established name, even if it is more closely related to puffins than other auklets. In addition, this would include a rather disparate member (Rhino Auklet) in a nice monophyletic and morphologically similar unit we know as Puffins.

NO. While its closest relatives are unambiguous puffins, inclusion of Cerorhinca stretches the parameters of puffinhood. It’s got to stop somewhere.

NO. Hell, it is a puffin, but the English vernacular is well established. Let’s stick with it. Lots of English vernacular names are not appropriate!

NO. I agree with a previous comment that although Cerorhinca clearly looks to be sister to the puffin clade, we don’t require our English group names to be monophyletic. I just can’t really see this bird as a puffin.


2008-A-7: Misc. details

YES. 6 without comment.

YES. I agree with the comment about nomenclatural stability not extending to endings, which must agree with the genus name.

YES (based on faith only).

YES. Do what you have to.

YES. With respect to a previous comment about not changing endings, I can’t see a workable basis for something of this sort. As taxa get moved among genera, endings will change. When we make those changes, we may make mistakes, which we should fix. This is not like a long used genus or species epithet, which can vanish based on a long discarded name (although even with that, you need to petition for suppression of the older name, for example Coccyzus julieni). The effect on stability of changing cincta to cinctus or vice versa is trivial, it seems to me. Won’t even affect the alphabetizing of the bird. In this case, these particular combinations have almost no history behind them. As far as I can tell it wasn’t until this recent molecular work that led us to split Poecile from Parus that any of the North American taxa were combined with Poecile. The only way I can see to avoid having to fix endings from time to time would be to declare them all fixed as they were originally described.

YES. What a mess. It makes us look bad. Does the “50-year rule” of the Code not apply to gender as well? If Latin is indeed a dead language, and names such as Lagopus mutus have been exclusively in use for more than 50 years, doesn’t change cause greater disruption (and little or no obvious benefit)? Stability whenever we can reasonably achieve it should be a high-priority goal. I have great respect for David & Gosselin’s scholarship, but I like the concept that if a mistake has become entrenched in usage for >50 years we’re stuck with it for stability’s sake.

2008-A-8: Split Passerculus sandwichensis into as many as four species

NO (option A).

NO (option A). The data tell me that some interesting things are going on with these birds, but I’m not comfortable calling these things species quite yet. I’m curious–are the Suisun Bay saltmarsh birds (which have Clade A haplotypes) phenotypically more like the other saltmarsh birds?

NO (option A), for the reasons given by others.

NO, very relunctantly (option A). Two of these taxa (beldingi and rostratus, as well as princes) were regarded as full species at one time. The first two were lumped in 1945 based on papers by Huey (1930) and van Rossem (1930). They were lumped based solely on morphological grounds on the basis of intermediate subspecies from the Baja Peninsula. Those who know rostratus see little in common with other Savannah Sparrows. Their songs and call notes are markedly different (habitat choices often distinct as well). They are genetically distinct as well, though apparently not from beldingi, which to our ears sounds like continental Savannah Sparrows. So, I feel the various taxa should not have been lumped at the species without more definitive evidence (e.g. vocalizations), but then that counted for little back then (e.g. California and Black-tailed Gnatcatchers). Someone needs to record the vocalizations and get additional genetic material from other Baja subspecies. A perfect thesis topic for some young student. I’d prefer to return full species rank to rostratus, but that doesn’t fit into the various options offered. Obviously it would be nice to determine the relationships of other taxa, but we have moved to split in the past without this information (e.g. with Plumbeous Vireo where notius and montanus were somewhat arbitrarily merged at the species level with Vireo plumbeus, despite their brighter appearance).

Literature Cited:

Huey, L.M. 1930. Comment on the Marsh Sparrows of southern and Lower California, with the description of a race. Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History 6:203-206.

van Rossem, A.J. 1930. Four new birds from northwestern Mexico. Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History 6:213-226.

YES. 4 species (option D).

NO. I don’t feel any different than from the last time I voted on (or just saw?) this proposal, and there has not been any new analyses. I want to see an analysis that sheds light on whether there is or would be reproductive isolation among the taxa of concern.

NO. But clearly a complex that is in the taxonomic grey zone.

NO. Although it seems likely that multiple species are involved, the situation remains unclear despite Jim’s considerable and laudable work.

NO. I strongly suspect that there are 3-4 species involved, yet I vote against the proposal because the evidence as published falls short of requirements for species rank. What we have is three mtDNA groups, with Belding’s and Large-billed falling into the same group despite strong differences in phenotype among them (and some Belding’s actually birds falling outside that group). There are at least five or more diagnosable units in terms of plumage even regarding the vast continental population as nothing but clinal variation. There are also potential differences in song and timing of breeding. By comparison to both the Nelson’s-Saltmarsh situation (virtually no gene flow at contact zone; discrete song differences) and Song Sparrow situation (evidently lots of gene flow and only minor song differences), it is likely that song differences play a key role in gene flow and species limits. After all these years, I really wish someone would quantify vocal differences among the groups. Except for San Benito, all are in relatively accessible areas. Great dissertation project, fascinating group, and logo-auk-aou.png” border=”0″ width=”240″ height=”146″ forward someday to species rank for at least Large-billed and San Benito.

Partial (option B). I suspect that eventually we might go whole hog here and split Large-billed, Belding’s and San Benito birds, but the current data doesn’t seem to quite support doing that yet. I do think we are ready to split off the salt marsh savannah sparrows from the rest of Savannah Sparrows.

NO (Option A). mtDNA data are not reliable indicators of species limits. Jim has laid an impressive base for some really interesting additional work on species limits in this group.

2008-A-9: Split Carduelis into two or more genera: A – Recognize the subgenus Acanthis as a genus; B – Recognize the subgenus Spinus as a genus; C – Remove C. sinica ands C. chloris from the genus Carduelis and place them in a genus with Rhodopechys

A – YES. B – ABSTAIN. C – YES. I abstained on all three parts of this proposal the first time around because of another paper by this crew – 2007 in Ardeola – that breaks Spinus down even further. I would like now to change my vote to Yes on part a (to recognize Acanthis) and part c (to move chloris and sinica to something else. That has to be Chloris, as others have pointed out. I momentarily retain my abstention on part b, to recognize Spinus.

A – YES. B – YES. C – YES. I favor splitting sinica and chloris into Chloris. Since Rhodospiza obsoleta doesn’t appear on the Checklist or Appendix, I thought I could get away with voting 9C up without dealing directly dealing with the Rhodospiza/Rhodopechys/Bucanetes issue. The taxonomic status of “Rhodopechys” was recently discussed by Kirwan & Gregory (2005 BBOC 125 p.78), who treat obsoleta in Rhodospiza (as mentioned in the Peters footnote cited by Jim), and githaginea/mongolicus as Bucanetes-ultimately splitting mongolicus into a new genus Eremopsaltria-probably overdoing it as judged by the available mtDNA data. The genus Chloris seems to work for sinica and chloris from the Appendix.

A – YES. B – YES. C – YES. I am reluctant to make changes like this based on part of one mtDNA gene,and – as noted in the proposal – many clades are poorly supported. However, the evidence that Carduelis is not monophyletic, combined with the lack of a clear rationale for merging the genera, favors a return to the earlier classification. Arguments in favor of this (especially 9C) by other committee members are clear.

A – YES. B – YES. C – YES.

A – YES. B – YES. C – YES. This leave the subgenus Carduelis by itself in the genus, at least in our classification, so it disappears, unless there are Eurasian subgenera. I do not like to base all these changes on 940 bp of mtDNA with many poorly supported nodes, but since the result mirrors previous taxonomy, I am happy with the change.

NO to all. mtDNA data here are insufficient.

A – YES. B – YES. C – YES, but as Chloris. I can’t see these as congeneric with other “Rhodopechys.”

A – YES. B – YES. C – YES. I share the concern about weak genetic sampling, but combine the results from a single gene with the absence of any explicit rationale and analysis for the merger of all those genera, and in my view, burden of proof is on maintaining a very broad Carduelis (which is “so 1960s”). As far as I can tell, SpinusAcanthis, and many others were victims of a global lumperama epidemic at the genus level.

A – YES. B – YES. C – YES. [do we still have any other genera with several species with radically different molting sequences, or does this solve that problem — if, indeed, it is a problem?]. C – Rhodopechys is not our problem, and we have to have something to call the Chloris that wander to our shores.

YES on all three. I’m not sure I understand the rationale for not going ahead and moving Carduelis sinica and chloris into Chloris. The fact that Rhodopechys is a mess is interesting but not relevant to us. The two greenfinches are both in the checklist, sinica in the main text and chloris in the Appendix, so we should do something. Maintaining them in Carduelis while splitting off Spinus and Acanthis does not make much sense. Nomenclaturally, there is no question that Chloris applies, regardless of what might happen with Rhodopechys or part of Rhodopechys.

The issue for the checklist committee is the name applied to sinica and chloris. If you vote for 9C, you would favor using the name Chloris for the species sinica and chloris. If you vote No, then you favor retaining Carduelis for these two species. Although the proposal talks about Rhodopechys (specifically obsoleta, since Rhodopechys [sensu Peters] is paraphyletic), Rhodopechys is irrelevant to the issue of which name to use for chloris and sinica. It doesn’t occur in North America, and whether chlorissinica and Rhodopechys obsoleta are congeneric does not affect the name for chloris and sinica. We can make some comment in the supplement about Rhodopechys obsoleta, and additional issues in this set of species, but we don’t necessarily have to do this.

This resembles many other cases where there are extralimital taxa. Sometimes it is clear what the situation is with the extralimital taxa, sometimes it is not. However, we don’t have to be able to deal with the extralimital taxa in order to do the appropriate thing with the North American taxa. If you look at Arnaiz-Villena et al. (2008), there are huge issues in the Old World taxa. Besides Carduelis not being monophyletic, Carpodacus (not even incuding the new world taxa), Serinus, and Rhodopechys are not monophyletic. If we are worried about Rhodopechys obsoletus relative to Chloris, then what about Twite and Linnet relative to Acanthis. They are not treated in Arnaiz-Villena et al. Does that interfere with recognizing Acanthis.

The reason to vote for 9C is that according to Arnaiz-Villena et al’s tree, to maintain a monophyletic Carduelis that includes chloris and sinica would require including Loxia and Acanthis in Carduelis. The evidence for Chloris not belonging in Carduelis is at least as strong as that for Acanthis. Splitting out Acanthis again seems to be fine for the committee, so I can’t quite understand why Chloris is a problem.

In terms of Rhodopechys obsoleta, if we go by Arnaiz-Villena’s tree, it is outside “true” Chloris, so it would not necessarily need to be treated in Chloris, if we felt the need to assign it to a genus. Because Rhodopechys is polyphyletic, and obsoleta does not go with the other species and is not the name-bearing taxon, my inclination would be to use Rhodospiza for obsoleta. Having expressed that opinion, I want to reiterate that we don’t need to figure out what to do with R. obsoleta, or Uragus or Haematospiza or any of the other problems in the Old World. We can clean up the North American taxa without having to clean up the Old World mess. So, I urge committee members to vote for 9C to recognize Chloris as the genus for the two species, chloris and sinica.

A – YES. B – YES. C – NO. Ordinarily I would not agree to this change given the dataset, but in this case it tips the balance back to a condition from which change was clearly reluctantly adopted. Well written proposal.

2008-A-10: Change linear sequence of trogon generas (SACC #230)

YES. 9 without comment.

YES. This move looks correct and unassailable, if we stay above the species level (for now).

YES, but how does this work with Monteros’s AUK (115:937-954,1998)? At a quick look they more or less agree, agree to the degree that the taxa studied are congruent. Should Monteros’s paper be cited?

2008-A-11: Change English names of mostly Palearctic birds to follow BOU

General comment: Let me point out that common probably does not have anything to do with abundance. I think it generally means Plain, Ordinary, Regular, as opposed to something refined (like the commoner versus the gentry), as in Sturnus vulgaris where vulgar means common.

A – Change Eurasian Kestrel to Common Kestrel

YES, to go with BOU.

NO. Whose common? All of these commons smack of cultural imperialism;most English speakers are not British. I prefer the single-word names like the chaffinch and the coot, which have more the savor of provincialism.

YES. I don’t really like Common but I think we should follow the BOU in this case.

NO. Utterly confusing as it certainly is not common here, and even in the Old World, American Kestrel is much more common here than Eurasian Kestrel is there!

YES. 3 without comment.

NO. 2 without comment.

NO. I hate the word “Common,” almost always, and esp. here. The Bloody American Kestrel is also common. Maybe we should rebel, and go back to the good Sparrow Hawk, or Sparrow-hawk Falcon! Common for Chaffinch is one thing (well, relative to the others, they are) or for the Terns (too well established to mess with) is another, but…..

YES. Regardless of whether one or the other name is slightly better, I think it’s important to follow BOU names for mainly Palearctic species.


B – Change Gyrfalcon to Gyr Falcon

NO. 6 without comment.

NO. Other Old World authorities are not in agreement on this, so I prefer to stick with more of the same, but I could change on this one.

NO, for no good, rational reason.

YES. Although the Gyr Falcon is Holarctic, the advantage of the slight change in presentation of the name making it consistent with most congeners combined with the bonus of being consistent with BOU carries the day for me. I never understood why/how F. rusticolus had such a weird one-word name anyway.

NO. What about Gos Hawk or Haw Finch? We are not consistent on this, although there are few cases that are comparable. As far as I can tell, Gyr doesn’t seem to mean anything. This is not a case like the others where this is a European bird where we should follow the BOU if possible. This is certainly as much our bird as theirs. I think Gyrfalcon is a preferable name.


C – Change Eurasian Coot to Common Coot

NO. All other coots have geographic names.

NO. Again, whose common?

NO. Retain Eurasian for reasons given in proposal.

NO, for the same reasons as the Kestrel – but then we do have Common Crane, don’t we?

NO. The geographic names American, Eurasian, Andean work well.

NO. 2 without comment.

YES. Regardless of whether one or the other name is slightly better, I think it’s important to follow BOU names for mainly Palearctic species.

NO. See above, plus the other obvious reasons.



D – Change Common Ringed Plover to Ringed Plover

YES. Follow the Brits on this.

YES. 4 without comment.

YES, if we can live with Chaffinch too. We should treat the two cases the same.

YES, but w/o enthusiasm.

YES. Regardless of whether one or the other name is slightly better, I think it’s important to follow BOU names for mainly Palearctic species.


YES. Given that Ringed and Little are not sisters it is also taxonomically more appropriate to drop the 3 name approach.


E – Change Little Ringed Plover to Little Plover

YES. Follow the Brits on this.

YES. 5 without comment.

NO. Other Plovers are small too (notably Kentish/Snowy which by the way give very different vocalizations from each other).

YES, but w/o enthusiasm.


YES. Regardless of whether one or the other name is slightly better, I think it’s important to follow BOU names for mainly Palearctic species.


F – Change Eurasian Blackbird to Common Blackbird

YES. 6 without comment.

NO. Again, why do the Brits get a monopoly on Common?


YES. Regardless of whether one or the other name is slightly better, I think it’s important to follow BOU names for mainly Palearctic species.

YES. Ok, this is yet a 3rd justification for “common.”


G – Change European Starling to Common Starling

YES. 6 without comment.

NO. 2 without comment.

YES, strongly.

YES. Regardless of whether one or the other name is slightly better, I think it’s important to follow BOU names for mainly Palearctic species.


H – Change Common Chaffinch to Chaffinch

NO. 5 without comment.

NO, for reasons given in proposal.

NO. Because there is a Blue Chaffinch, you need to have modifier for The Chaffinch.

YES. Ahhh, a switch I can live with.

NO. First principles of English name schemes include the rule that if one species has a modifier, then all the species with that last name also have modifiers. The rationale for the symmetry is its removal of ambiguity. Why BOU would regress to an unmodified Chaffinch, given that they even modified their Wren with our Winter (etc.) is a mystery. Perhaps they will reconsider. As long as there is a Blue Chaffinch, we should stick with Common Chaffinch.

NO. I agree with others that as long as there is a Blue Chaffinch, Chaffinch needs a modifer. Doesn’t mean you have to use it in day to day life, just like Bobwhite, Pintail, Starling, etc.


I – Change Eurasian Bullfinch to Common Bullfinch

YES, to go with BOU.

NO. 5 without comment.

NO. The name Eurasian Bullfinch certain makes much more sense.

NO. See Common Blackbird (although not really, but it is nowhere really common, is it?)

YES. Regardless of whether one or the other name is slightly better, I think it’s important to follow BOU names for mainly Palearctic species.



2008-A-12: Change linear sequence of species in Turdus (SACC #338)