2010-A-1: Separate Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus from C. alexandrinus

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. This seems to be well documented.

YES. The combination of mtDNA and nuclear genetic data provide good evidence in favor of a split between Eurasian and American populations of C. alexandrinus. I would vote no if this were based solely on mtDNA, but the authors analyzed 21 microsatellite loci and a sex-specific marker for 166 individuals – a nice data set that supports the genetic differences. The lack of samples from populations of other subspecies is a definite weakness of this study, as the authors admit, and further sampling might reveal additional species within this complex. However, I think that the data are still strong enough to move forward with this split. Although the vocal differences are only suggestive (no quantitative analyses, only 2 sonograms presented), the courtship calls do appear to be quite distinct.

YES. I’m a bit puzzled on this. The NACC has been quick to correct the lumping craze from the 1960’s-early 1980’s period and has done so even in one case when there wasn’t a good published paper rebutting the lump (Rosy Finches). But, what about the lumping errors of the 1930’s-early 1940’s? Why is one more sacrosanct than the other? 

The history of these taxa is well detailed. They were regarded as separate species through the third edition of the Check-List (1931), then were lumped in the 19th Supplement (first Supplement since the Check-List) in 1944 (Auk 61:441-464). The AOU cited Peters (1934,Volume 2, page 250) in the lump, but Peters offers no rationale. Perhaps he followed Oberholser’s (1922) recommendation (citation in the current motion) in lumping New and Old World taxa. Oberholser’s conclusion was based on the similarity in plumage, and that even the supposed characters (crown color, more rufous in alternate Old World birds) and lore color (darker in Old World birds) overlapped. Obviously there was no analysis of vocalizations in Oberholser’s study or in the decisions by Peters and the AOU.

Those that do know the calls hear no similarity between New and Old World birds. Old World birds give “kip” notes, much as the call of a Sanderling, or a Red-necked Phalarope, totally different from the buzzy type calls in New World birds. Even beyond that, the two ranges are separated by thousands of miles (Japan and Washington) and have likely been separated by eons. I’m not the least bit surprised that the initial genetic studies indicate they are quite different. It’s not like Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrels where the species are circumpolar. Is there any other case where New and Old world populations of the same species (but different subspecies) are so separated by range? 

So, my rationale in voting yes is based mainly on the basis that there was no justification (either by AOU in 1944, or Peters earlier) for the lump, that the two have very different vocalizations, and they are well isolated by range (continents apart!). The genetic studies support this as well.

YES. Kentish and snowy plovers are reciprocally monophyletic in mtDNA, which suggests that these two taxa have already met a fairly high bar for species recognition. Under a simple divergence model, nuclear Fst of >0.2 implies less than one migrant per generation, which is inadequate to maintain genetic continuity in the face of genetic drift, let alone selection. Küpper et al. found Fst between Kentish and snowy plovers of 0.26-0.38, suggesting much less than one migrant per generation. Funk et al.’s work on New World populations establishes that none of them are nearly so divergent. Given the poor population sampling the size differences don’t mean much, but for me the multilocus genetic data are convincing. If Kentish and White-fronted plovers intergrade genetically in Africa, does that affect species status of the snowy? I don’t think so. I know that the genetic arguments above are a simplification, and that more sophisticated analyses, better population sampling, etc. could refine this estimate, but I think the burden of proof now rests with the single species side of the argument. 

YES. Although there are weaknesses with the case presented in the paper, clearly these are better considered two distinct species, very likely not each other’s closest relatives. There is no geographical approach between Palearctic and Nearctic birds (since the Snowy Plover doesn’t breed north of Washington) and no indication of introgression, and birds in the Far East are the same race as those in Europe. In a good sample of several different types of vocalizations from both from various commercially available sources, none of their vocalizations are very similar, and some are markedly distinct, such as the sweet prolonged upslurred note of Snowy Plover, which is not matched by anything in the Kentish Plover’s repertoire according to the available sources. The available evidence overall is too strong to ignore, and we may wait many years for someone to produce a paper pulling it all together.

YES. These have been begging to be split for a long time, and many have proposed it, although I don’t think that it has formally been done. Sort of the “I think that the Kentish and American Snowy plovers are different species,” stuff. I’m happy with the proposed nomenclature.

YES. The information presented by Kupper et al is generally strong. Their vocal information is a bit marginal in terms of sample size,  bit it is clear from other literature that the voices of Snowy and Kentish plovers are substantially different.

NO. On the whole, I suspect that they will eventually be proven correct. But I am not convinced mostly for sample size issues, with genetics (13 Snowy Plovers is too small a sample size) and especially with the sample sizes for chick plumage and vocalizations in the Appendix in the 2009 Auk publication. This seems like too much of a minimalist approach to documenting phenotypic differences (body size is not a useful species limits character) and species limits using genetics. With real population samples (and better geographic coverage in Snowys), their preliminary data suggest that they could eventually make a convincing case, but until those data are available I do not think a change is warranted.

NO. This vote is cast from the perspective that I am certain that actual analyses of vocalizations will show that the two groups are separate BSC species. As is, the Küpper et al. paper provides data consistent with species rank but not sufficient for a yes vote at this time. The authors argue that alexandrinus and marginatus are more closely related than either is to nivosus. However, this is only with respect to two mitochondrial genes and rests, as far as I can tell, largely on their text statement “Differences between mtDNA sequences and CHD-Z genotypes were larger between Kentish and Snowy plovers (6%) than between Kentish and White-fronted plovers.” The haplotype tree presented (Fig. 2) actually provides no support for the node that links marginatus and alexandrinus, or even support for the monophyly of alexandrinus itself. All the tree shows is that there is strong support that the 13 individuals of nivosus and the 4 marginatus each form a monophyletic group. Further, the authors themselves point out that a weakness of their study is that not all of the taxa assigned to the alexandrinus group have been sampled. Also, they only sampled the most geographically remote subspecies (Madagascar) of C. marginatus, which is widespread in Africa and possibly is in contact with unsampled alexandrinus populations on the African coasts. Finally, I find no mention of “gene tree” in the text (quick skim – may have missed it?).

The authors assign importance to the low variation within nivosus compared to alexandrinus. However, that variation within nivosus is based on only 13 individuals, from only 2 localities yet — how do we know with such a sampling regime?

As for non-genetic data, the discrete biometric differences are biologically interesting and not inconsistent with species rank. However, by themselves they are basically irrelevant to taxon rank unless one adopts a species concept that does not allow for discrete geographic variation within a species. Many populations of birds that no one would claim should be treated as separate species differ significantly in mean measurements among populations. Note (Table 4) that the differences between the one breeding population of Snowy and four Kentish populations analyzed are highly statistically significant but nonetheless overlap in all measurements except tarsus length. However, with only one population of Snowy Plovers analyzed, we actually do not know how broadly this applies. The difference in plumage pattern of chicks (Fig. A1) is also of interest, but whether the difference shown in the photos applies broadly is uncertain because are no actual data to evaluated (N=1 of each taxon).

The vocal differences are indeed important. Every pair of sister populations in shorebirds ranked as separate species also differs, as far as I can tell, in vocalizations. In fact, those differences in vocalizations have been the nail-in-coffin evidence for recent splits. Strong empirical evidence indicates that barriers to gene flow are associated with discrete differences in vocalizations. However, the paper only presents two sonograms from two individuals and thus is totally insufficient for assessment of individual and geographic variation.

The lead sentence in the final paragraph of the published paper claims: “we have shown that Kentish and Snowy plovers should no longer be considered to constitute a single cosmopolitan species.” Really? One sonogram of each, non-overlapping tarsus length (based on small N and without good geographic sampling), and a suggestive mtDNA gene tree should not be considered sufficient in my opinion. I strongly suspect that the vocal differences, widely known to birders, once adequately documented, will be sufficient evidence for species rank; in fact, I think that there are already enough publicly available recordings that a simple presentation of sonograms from multiple individuals without much additional work.

NO. The authors never give what definition of species they used. Presumably it’s PSC, because there is no discussion of reproductive isolation. There are several subspecies of alexandrinus not analyzed that could alter the results. What if eastern Asian subpp of alexandrinus are more closely related to nivosus? The authors do not present this possibility, and state only that greater geographical representation could find additional cryptic spp. Definitely should have included rubricapilla in the analyses. It does not seem that microsatellites would be the best nuclear marker for this type of study. Level of morphological and plumage differences is fine for spp (A good comparison is mongolus & leschenaultii). Too bad the authors do not even mention plumage differences.

2010-A-2: Modify the type locality of Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli

YES. We do give type localities in the Check-List, so we do need to consider this sort of issue, I think.  [Even if we reject the following proposal.]

NO. 1 without comment.

NO. This is not published. It is conjectural. It doesn’t really make any difference nomenclaturally. I would like to know why “west” was added in 1910. Also, Paragraph 5 should be disregarded. If there were a present type specimen of gambeli, the locality would be known and this proposal would not be necessary. The specimen alluded to is the type of a named subspecies of gambeli that is considered a synonym of P. g. gambeli, but that does not affect the type locality for the original name. See Deignan, 1961, Type specimens of birds in the USNM. 

NO. The author has clearly given this some thought, but I agree that we need a published account before acting on this proposal.

NO. We should await a publication first in a peer reviewed journals as other members have commented. But, even so, while I agree that stating “about one day’s journey west of Santa Fe” isn’t warranted based on the facts, stating that it was “one day’s journey southeast of Santa Fe” seems to be substituting one unsubstantiated statement with another. With so little detail about what Gambel did in 1841, how can we  know what he did, or didn’t do? Mountain Chickadees are basically found in all directions around Santa Fe and even are in riparian nearby where they have hybridized with Black-capped Chickadees. So stating the “vicinity of Santa Fe” might be the most accurate statement. 

NO. Wait for publication of emendation.

NO. The proposed change appears to me to replace a likely incorrect locality statement with one that is more precise but based on speculation. Perhaps it would be better to change the statement to be more vague — simply “near Santa Fé in New Mexico.” ?.

NO. Although we should of course always strive for the most accuracy possible in type localities, whether it makes an obvious immediate difference or not, this is a rather complex case and should be deferred until peer-reviewed publication.

NO, based on our requirement that such information be published. Since when do we act on unpublished information? I support the author’s proposal, and encourage a resubmission when the manuscript is published.

NO. This should be published before we do anything with this. I am not sure it really matters, as there doesn’t seem to be any nomenclatural issue or the likelihood of one arising in the future. The addition of “west” to the description of the type locality appears to have no basis, and perhaps should be removed, but the argument for saying southeast seems a bit weak to me. At any rate I would not do anything with this until there is at least a published account of this.

NO. I encourage the author to publish this evidence in a peer-reviewed outlet before submitting a proposal to this committee.

2010-A-3: Split Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli into two species

YES. Well justified.

YES. This looks solid enough, with the congruence of 3 data sets. I am happy with the proposed nomenclature. This seems to me to be one of those cases where two new names are needed, i..e. Mt. Chickadee not retained for either of them (Like “Traill’s Flycatcher”).

NO. 1 without comment.

NO. I can’t comment on the song differences, but I’m unable to hear differences in the contact notes between Rocky Mt. and Sierra birds. Moreover, the geographic boundaries seem slightly iffy to me, particularly in regards to inyoensis. If Mono Basin birds are intermediate then that probably carries on down through the White/Inyo/Panamint/Kingston and Clark Mt. ranges as well. Basically Mountain Chickadees spill over the Sierra and are found east of there anywhere where there are conifers (even pinyon-juniper). In short I see no geographical barrier between the two proposed species, and there is no detailed study in the area of overlap to see if they act as biological species (I would rather doubt it). A number of ornithologists have worked over this species complex, as has been noted in the motion.  But, I note that Phillips (1986) isn’t mentioned. Phillips in Known Birds (volume 1, page 86-87) in Remarks states: “From main Rocky Mountains W to E California there is a stepped cline of paling so that in 1964 I recognized 3 races. But winter birds from SW Kansas, W’ most Oklahoma and NE’ most New Mexico are also paler and duller than typical Rocky Mt. gambeli; presumably they come from nearby outlying mts, as the species is not a long-distance migrant. Direct comparison with these is needed to validate even inyoensis. Thus variation seems mosaic, non-clinal, so I longer recognize wasatchensis.” If this split were recognized I note that Phillips would have the northwestern birds (included under his baileyae and inclusive of birds from northern British Columbia and southwest Alberta) assigned with the coastal birds, while the authors of the motion would assign them to the Rocky Mt. species. Behle (Behle, W.H. 1985.  Utah Birds:  Geographic Distribution and Systematics, Occasional Publications Number 5, Utah Museum of Natural History) has a good discussion of the morphological variation within Utah of three races he recognizes, all affiliated with Rocky Mt. birds.

One morphological character not mentioned between Rocky Mt. and Pacific populations is the width of the supercilium. I have been impressed that Rockies birds have a broader white supercilium (apparent particularly in fresh plumage) and have seen birds like that in northeast and west-central (fall migration) Nevada. That can be a hard character to detect on specimens.

Regarding vocalizations, I’m not sure how significant song differences are. There are certainly studies detailing geographic variation in the song of Black-capped Chickadee. Indeed some from the Pacific Northwest sing very different songs (e.g. from Oregon), yet their contact calls are the same.

Bottom line for me is that there are no studies in the contact zone between the two taxa. It’s hard for me to think that they act as good biological species. The song differences, though interesting, seem less significant than the contact notes which sound the same, at least to my ears. I would rather steer clear of this minefield for now.

NO. No discussion of reproductive isolation. It seems that the most telling area for where these clades would be interacting was not sampled well. A larger sample from the  Mono Lake area is needed. They didn’t sample west-central Nevada; the closest sampled Great Basin populations  to Mono Lake are 175 km east and 230 km southeast. So we do not know if there is a large or small zone of introgression, though judging by other spp, we could hypothesize a quick turnover. What is the Mono Lake population like phenotypically? Vocally? Didn’t we have more evidence for splitting the scrub-jays?

NO. This split is motivated primarily by the mtDNA study of Spellman et al. 2008, which is impressive in many ways. However, sampling in or near the potential contact zone where these putative species meet appears to have been sparse, with only the Mono Lake population (where introgression was detected) sampled at that boundary. Figure 1 from that paper actually shows these forms meeting along a transect that extends from southern CA to just south of the Canadian border. Without more information on what is happening along this boundary, a species-level split seems premature.

NO. This information is suggestive, but doesn’t completely convince me. I think it is premature to split these taxa. The vocal information is old and very qualitative. It does not sample the distributions of either clade very well. There is some evidence of perhaps gene flow in the one area of overlap or potential overlap. The nature of the information and the situation strikes me as remarkably similar to the situation between California and Woodhouse’s Jays, which we have not split. It seems like we have better info in that case than here. 

NO. This initial evidence is interesting, but it does not adequately address species limits. Published nuclear DNA results, genuine analyses of phenotypic differences, and behavior and gene flow in the contact zone are needed to make a convincing case.

NO for now, although two species seems highly likely to be eventually shown to be the best course. There are two song recordings, one each of the baileyi and gambeli groups, on xeno-canto, and these do fit with Miller’s observation (baileyi high notes are c. 300 Hz higher than the low notes, gambeli c. 700 Hz), but obviously a larger sample will be needed. Macaulay has a large sample but specific locality is not shown on the website.

NO. I think the situation is very similar to the Oak-Juniper titmouse and California-Woodhouse Jay, and that further data will likely support species status. However, in logo-auk-aou.png” border=”0″ width=”240″ height=”146″ more closely at the sampling, there do not appear to be any samples from the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington) which is a major gap. It is possible that there are additional contact zones other than the one near Mono Lake. As the authors state, the extent of introgression is difficult to infer because of the small sample size (n = 3) at Mono Lake. Although these two groups seem to have been isolated for some time, I would like to see additional sampling in the Pacific Northwest and especially in areas where they potentially contact (Mono Lake, other sites?). It would also be nice to have a quantitative analysis of vocal differences, as well as nuclear data to corroborate the mtDNA.

NO. There is no doubt that the data indicate that the species is divided into two groups. The question is whether these two groups should be ranked as species. Our species concept does not automatically rank differentiated allopatric taxa as “species” – this would not allow for discrete variation of populations within a species.

Specifically, what we have here that is new is an mtDNA gene tree in which the Rocky Mountain populations differ moderately (4.4% sequence divergence) from Sierra populations, yet divergence among populations within each of the two major groups is minor. This is biologically important and is concordant with what has been known from plumage and measurements for almost a century, but this cannot be used to justify species rank. In fact, under the PSC, it is likely that there are more than just two species if any of Behle’s seven subspecies are diagnosable units in terms of plumage (unless someone has evidence that the plumage differences do not have a genetic basis). Also note that in the one area where the two major mtDNA lineages are in contact, there is evidence for gene flow, i.e., there is no indication of any sort of barrier to gene flow between the two groups. The proposal notes that there is very limited contact. But the important point overlooked is that at that very limited contact point, gene flow is evident.

The older information that is used to support the split consists of measurements and plumage data and qualitative descriptions of song. Certainly no one would suggest that differences in tail length (are the measurements non-overlapping?) or subtle differences in flank or back color are species-level characters, and I am not aware of any two species of birds that differ only in those characters. As for song, I haven’t looked up Miller (1934), but from the title I suspect that he provided only qualitative statements on vocal differences. This obviously does not meet our standards for documenting vocal differences, much less whether they are associated with reduced gene flow.

The proposed “Note” to be added to the check-list is worded as follows: “Formerly considered conspecific with P. baileyae but split on the basis of molecular, morphological, and vocal differences.” The molecular differences are actually the presence of two mtDNA lineages that interbreed to an unknown degree at their only (?) contact point. Until we adopt a “mtDNA species concept”, this is inadequate. The morphological differences refer to minor plumage shades and differences in tail length that may or may not overlap. The vocal differences are based on a qualitative statement from a highly astute ornithologist but are nonetheless based on an unknown N of individuals from an unknown N of populations, and the consequences of those vocal differences are unknown.

2010-A-4: Split Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata into two, three, or four species

YES (option 2, split into 4 species) – 1 with no comment. 

YES (option 3, 2 species). This is a close call for auduboni/coronata. I think that the stable (and narrow?)  hybrid zone, and the distinctive plumage and call note difference  are good evidence of species level differences, but the complete non-assortment in the hybrid zone bothers me. I don’t think the evidence is nearly as strong enough to separate nigrifrons and auduboni, and no one is making a strong case for goldmani at this time.

YES (option 3, 2 species). My gut feeling is that all four could be different species, but we don’t have the supporting data. We now have more than 40 yrs of data on the contact zone in Alta. and it seems to be stable, with no indication of serious introgression. However, we really do need deeper sampling: there are a lot of gaps where we really do not know anything about what is there. I’d go for Audubon’s and Myrtle warblers for common names — both already well established in the literature, and well known to ornithologists (and birders).

YES (option 3, 2 species). I am not completely thrilled with this split, but I think it is probably the best treatment. I would say that the evidence as presented seems to argue against splitting nigrifrons, and it just seems like the evidence for goldmani is not really adequate yet, although I suspect we might eventually split it.

NO. Phenotypic and genetic variation in this group is quite complicated, and I’m not at all certain that we understand what has happened (or is happening) here.

NO. This is a well-written propoosal that clearly lays out the alternatives. However, as the author notes, more detailed genetic analyses are underway. That information, plus the lack of assortative mating in the contact zone between auduboni and coronata, and the need for more study in the contact between auduboni and nigrifrons, suggests that it’s premature to split these.

NO. Given the vocal differences (at least with call notes), the distinct morphological differences, and even winter habitat differences (at least on West coast), I would have guessed that the Myrtle and Audubon’s groups were distinct species, much like Fox Sparrows. But, in the well-studied contact zone, there is complete breakdown and hybrids dominate, perhaps almost entirely so. So, I fail to see how a two species concept can be endorsed using the BSC concept. An additional character worth thinking about, at least with Myrtles is their ability to digest various berries (wax myrtle, bay, poison ivy). I wonder if Audubon’s are as able to digest berries from various species. They certainly do winter pretty far north in the West.

As for the other taxa within the Audubon’s group, the case is less convincing. Although nigrifrons I saw in Chihuahua did indeed look blacker, I could hear no vocal differences. Having intergradation within the Sky Islands of southeast Arizona and southwest New Mexico logically makes sense to me with purer birds within the Sierra Madre Occidental proper. Not surprising that goldmani is even more distinct given how isolated it is. I’ve never seen it, so can’t comment on appearance, etc. Considering all of these subspecies of  a single species, the Yellow-rumped Warbler makes the most sense to me. No mention of memorabilis, but I guess it’s just treated as a “size” race these days, as is hooveri.

NO. This is an extremely well presented proposal that provides a notably balanced summary of a complicated biological situation that also has a convoluted history of classification. I think that the new studies suggesting strong selection against hybrids within the coronata/auduboni contact zone tip the scales in favor of a split between those forms. The multilocus evidence for the genetic distinctiveness of goldmani along with its phenotypic distinctiveness, argue for its split from the remaining group. The evidence for the distinctiveness of nigrifrons is much more equivocal, and it groups with auduboni in various analyses. Given the information presented in this proposal, my vote will ultimately go to option 4: treating coronata, auduboni/nigrifrons, and goldmani as three species. But I think we need to stick with our rules and wait for formal publication of all relevant genetic data before making this change, as without those particular analyses it is much less clear where to draw the lines.

NO. Clearly there is a lot going on here. Published genetic data are incomplete (because research is ongoing), the coronata-auduboni hybrid zone is pretty wide relative to their dispersal distances, they show no behavioral indications of being separate species at this contact zone, and there is a crying need to determine what is going on at the other contact zone (especially with Arizona auduboni apparently having nigrifrons mtDNA). Phenotypic evidence seems to suggest subspecies status is warranted for auduboni-nigrifrons, and the summary of genetic evidence does not counter this argument. By inference, then, goldmani though genetically differentiated and allopatric would also likely have to be treated as a subspecies as it has been.

NO. Await publication of work in progress.

NO. As the proposal points out, recent data continue to indicate that mating between the auduboni and coronata is random at contact, which is consistent with the absence of differences in songs. These two taxa do not treat each other as separate entities, so why should taxonomists? Although the contact zone between auduboni and nigrifrons has not been studied, the proposal notes that unpublished data indicate at least moderate gene flow. Taxon rank for allopatric goldmani can be assessed only though comparative methods, and as far as I can tell goldmani is no more different in terms of plumage and voice than the intergrading taxa are and thus should be assigned the same rank as they are.

I am puzzled by apparently contradictory statements in the proposal. Under Option 1, we have: “In the coronataauduboni hybrid zone, there is little if any assortative mating (Brelsford & Irwin 2009), and within the hybrid zone nearly all birds are admixed (Hubbard 1969, Brelsford & Irwin 2009).”  But under Option 2, we have: “Brelsford and Irwin (2009) have shown substantial (albeit incomplete) reproductive isolation between auduboni and coronata.” Evidently the latter refers to narrow hybrid zone and the populations as a whole but not to individual birds?

Until we have more data on the auduboninigrifrons contact zone and an analysis of song differences data in goldmani, I don’t think we have any option but Option 1, i.e. no action. The proposal notes that AOU (1998) stated that taxa separated by narrow, stable hybrid zones should be treated as separate species. I would certainly object to such a definition because as the proposal notes, there is no objective way to define “narrow,” and further our notion of stability obviously can refer only to the past century or so. Additionally, zones of intergradation between otherwise diagnosable units that we treat as subspecies are often narrow and probably stable.

On a personal note, the strong call-note differences between auduboni and coronata and their habitat differences where they winter sympatrically are not consistent with my subjective notion of what a “species” is; such differences are unusual between taxa ranked as subspecies. But the signal that these taxa send us through nonassortative mating in the hybrid zone is that these differences are not important and that the two taxa treat each other as “same.”

2010-A-5: Remove Schiffornis, Laniocera, Pachyramphus, and Tityra from incertae sedis and place in the new family Tityridae

YES. 7 without comment.

YES. Support for this seems strong.

YES. It would be much preferred to remove these from Incertae Sedis, as they now have a nice little place of their own. 

YES. Strong support for separate family ranking if we also rank Tyrannidae, Pipridae, and Cotingidae at same rank.

YES. The various uncertain Tyrannoid genera have now been mostly successfully placed by the creation of Tityridae. Only Piprites remains problematic.

2010-A-6: Change English name of Turdus nudigenis to Spectacled Thrush

YES. 9 without comment.

ABSTAIN. 1 without comment.

YES. Can anyone tell me why we retained the English name of Rufous-backed Robin for Turdus rufopalliatus? I thought the rationale was to change those Neotropical Turdus from Robin to Thrush, thus White-throated and Clay-colored Thrushes. But not Rufous-backed Thrush? Clay-colored Thrush is more established in southmost Texas (regular breeder) than Rufous-backed Robin is as a visitor (primarily to southeast Arizona). Maybe it stays as Robin because it looks more like our American Robin? 

2010-A-7: Transfer Chlorospingus from Thraupidae to Emberizidae

YES. 5 without comment.

YES. Genetic data support this change.

YES. It’s a relief to get another genus out of Incertae Sedis. I would say it should be placed at the beginning of the Emberizidae for now.

YES. Strong genetic data require this transfer.

YES. Overdue!

YES. I actually thought we’d already done this. This is one of the least controversial of the 9-primaried oscine changes as far as I can tell.

YES. I agree that the genetic data support this move.

2010-A-8: Elevate Chaetura andrei meridionalis to species status

YES. 2 without comment.

YES (tentatively). Has anyone actually verified the identification of this specimen since 1939? Perhaps this is mentioned in Marin 1997, at which I have not looked (at least not today).

YES (weakly). Having published information about the vocalizations would make for a stronger case, but if one can hear distinct differences from the recordings on xeno-canto, then that argues for species recognition from C. pelagica. But if this motions fails, I favor the status quo of doing nothing (even if recognition that it’s not C. andrei) than moving it to C. pelagica, then later down the road to its own species. The fewer changes the better. Besides I hardly favor in this case of taking a contrary position from the SACC. I’m hardly a Chautera expert, but visually, other than Short-tailed Swift, these species all look so similar to each other. Surely vocalizations are important, perhaps vitally so. They sure seem to communicate frequently to each other in so many of the field situations I encounter them. 

YES. I don’t see any reason not to follow the SACC.

YES, following SACC.

YES, in the absence of any real data to the contrary.The problem is that there has never been any explicit rationale for why this was a subspecies of C. andrei, the previous taxonomy, and reasonable arguments against that taxonomy, and to make it a subspecies of C. pelagicus, which would be novel taxonomy, would require some work .. and would produce a biogeographic pattern for which I can’t think of any parallel case, namely one species restricted to eastern North America and its sister to subtropical S Brazil-N Argentina-E Bolivia. Also, keep in mind that many Chaetura swifts are very similar morphologically.

…one more thing on voice. Keep in mind that Vaux’s and Chimney are very similar in voice and that they overlap in plumage color — the way we ID them officially in collection is using wing length and wing formula. If you go to Xeno-canto and listen to samples of this group of Chaetura, you can see that it’s going to take a fairly sophisticated analysis to sort them all out. Superficially, C. chapmani, to my ear, sounds more like Chimney than does meridionalishttps://xeno-canto.org/explore?query=Chaetura%20meridionalis

YES. Let’s go along with the SACC unless there is a compelling reason not to.

YES. This change would put us in accord with SACC on the taxonomy, and follows the most recent work on the group. I started to write that I agreed that somebody should check the Panama specimen to ensure that it is actually meridionalis. Then I noticed the reference was Rogers 1939, and it turned out the specimen was at Princeton. The Princeton collection is now at the Field Museum, so I have made an initial check of the specimen. I have not done measurements or a thorough check, but in a quick check and comparison to other species known from Panama, I think it is correctly identified.

The first issue to be dealt with isn’t about the relationship of meridionalis to pelagica. It is whether meriodionalis should be treated as a subspecies of andrei. I think that the case is well-made that it should not. If we move it out of andrei, I think for now at least we have to treat it as a separate species. It may be related to pelagica and belong in that species or a member of a superspecies with it, but we have too little information to make such a change at this time. One thing I would note is that I feel like there is a distributional pattern that resembles pelagica/meriodionalis. The breeding distributions of Purple Martin and Southern Martin resemble those of the swifts, and both forms also winter in the Amazon. It differs from the swift case in that there are a variety of other taxa (Gray-breasted, Peruvian, Caribbean, Cuban, Sinaloa, etc.) that might be more closely related to one or the other of the pair. Whether Chaetura chapmani or viridipennis might be part of the story with respect to pelagica and meridionalis would also be worth exploring.

NO. Originally voted YES for congruence with the SACC on this, but changed vote to NO based on the comment below.

NO. In going back to Marín (1997), while it is clear that this taxon is not part of andrei, its closest relative is C. pelagica, from which it is separable only by wing formula. Marín (1997:437) stated “These two taxa are phenotypically so similar that they can be treated as disjunct populations [sic] of the same species.” While he goes on to state that their relationships and biogeography might be paralleled by the Vireo olivaceus-chivi complex, there is apparently no evidence other than wing formula (no genetics, no vocalizations) to support species status. And Lack (1957) clearly considered such differences to be for aerodynamic reasons and (at least in Apus pacificus) not useful in determining species limits. How long has this population been in South America? Probably longer than Barn Swallows, but year-round flight differences (shorter migration, faster or slower feeding flight) could readily account for wing differences like these. Until additional evidence supports species-level status, this taxon should be Chaetura pelagica meridionalis.

Basically, elevating meridionalis to species status rests on one sentence of published evidence: “The only way that I found to distinguish these taxa is by the difference between the two outermost primaries; in C. a. meridionalis the 9th is 3-8 mm longer than the 10th, whereas in C. pelagica the 9th and 10th primary [sic] are nearly equal in length.” (Marin 1997:436). No detailed data are presented, and in such a continuous character it would not be surprising to find some overlap between the taxa. Manuel is a good biologist, and I am sure he was onto something interesting here, but if we are going to elevate something to species status based on this evidence, we’re not going to look very even-handed in our deliberations and votes.

Until Hellmayr described C. a. meridionalis the taxon was classified as C. pelagica. It looks like Hellmayr may have had little material to work with (I don’t have his 1907 Bull. B.O.C. paper), because he chose an immature as the type. The way I read it, Hellmayr goofed, Manuel Marin figured that out and said that pelagica and meridionalis could be treated as disjunct populations of the same species (as they had been before Hellmayr 1907), and, using his sentence on wing formula, argued instead for full species status. While their breeding ranges are as you say, their wintering ranges overlap extensively, and we don’t really know how often some northern migrants may not migrate and breed instead in the tropics (this is why I mentioned the Barn Swallow). Seems like it would sure be easy in those wintering flocks to mix up a few now and then. In sum, based on published evidence the argument for species status is really weak. Further study is definitely warranted, and there may be two species involved, but calling them such now sets a much lower threshold than we usually use. 

2010-A-9: Change English names of North American Troglodytes wrens>

YES. I agree with Howell, although you may recall (and probably not!) that I really didn’t like “Pacific” Wren in our last proposal. In this case I like Eastern Winter wren and Western Winter Wren, as Steve suggests, and for the reasons that he gives. I am not always an eastern/western, or northern/southern, etc. fan, but it works here.

YES. I was in favor of this when it came up before but recognize that I lost that vote, too.

YES. Despite the ironic tone of this proposal, the basic argument seems sound.

NO. We debated this name business nearly endlessly before reaching a decision. Let it rest.

NO. It may be insensitive, but I like Pacific wren.

NO. I’m all for listening to the “person in the street” but as others have pointed out, we gave a lot of thought and discussion to this. Changing the names to Eastern and Western Winter Wren imply sister species status which is not supported by current data.

NO. I preferred Eastern Winter-Wren and Pacific Winter-Wren, but was outvoted. I’ve argued that Pacific Winter-Wren is a good name as the range “frames” the Pacific, or at least part of it, the northeastern part (Pacific Northwest) and the northern part (Aleutian Islands). The call notes of birds from Taiwan on xeno-canto sounded identical to my ear to calls of pacificus and the Alaskan birds. Given that they are on the Commander Islands, some 150 miles west of Attu, then on down more or less continuously to Taiwan, the name Pacific Wren will go from a good name to an even better name, if it can be shown that these west Pacific birds belong with Pacific Wren. Well, to satisfy the purists, perhaps Pacific-framing Winter-Wren would be the most ideal name.

NO. We struggled for a long time over this last year, and I do not think that the arguments have changed.

NO, for reasons given by others and by us during the earlier discussions.

NO. I agree 100% with Howell on the inappropriateness of “Pacific”, and I made similar points in my formal comments; in fact, I ranked it at the bottom of the 5 options presented. However, the pros and cons of this have already been discussed extensively. There is no indication that Howell has read the extensive comments on this at our NACC website, and the proposal really doesn’t present anything new. I’m all for getting rid of “Pacific Wren” (for Northwestern Wren) but not for Western Winter Wren and Eastern Winter Wren. Hyphenated or not, these names obviously imply a sister relationship when the data so far indicate that they are not sisters (in fact, that’s one reason we split them), and the proposal does not mention or show awareness of this problem (or of many people’s dislike of compound names).

NO. We spent a lot of words, and maybe a lot of thought on the English name of these wrens. Best I can tell the argument from Steve Howell is one we have already heard (Pacific should be for island taxa) and nothing new. His analogy with meadowlark and pewees I think is at best forced. In both cases over most to all of North America, there are no other taxa with the same last name. This is not true for the wrens. I would further point out that many more related eastern and western species don’t have the modifers eastern and western than do have such a modifer: Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeak, Blue and Steller’s Jay, Pygmy and Brown-headed Nuthatch, Yellow-throated and Grace’s Warbler, Myrtle and Audubon’s Warbler. While I recognize that we may be forced into Eastern and Western Marsh-Wrens, I don’t see us needing to do that in this case. Further unlike the meadowlarks and pewees the wrens don’t really fill up the landscape. We thought about Northwestern Wren for pacificus because of that, and the Winter Wren is really a boreal species as a breeder.

2010-A-10: Split Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata from G. chloropus

YES. 3 without comment.

YES. mtDNA, morphology and vocalizations say yes.

YES, for reasons given in proposal and for consistency with SACC list.

YES. I always disliked the name Common Moorhen, at least for our bird, because it is totally inappropriate on this side of the Atlantic. And before we gave it the name “Common Moorhen” it wasn’t called that anywhere (was called Moorhen in England). We call ours the Common Gallinule, which has a history over here, and let the Brits call theirs what they wish.

YES. A good discussion can be found in Martin Garner’s and friends Frontiers in Birdng (see pages 104-107) where the differences in vocalizations and frontal shield are detailed. Garner states that the North American subspecies name, G. c. cachinnans translates to “laughing,” hence the English name Laughing Moorhen. But if the motion is passed I’d prefer going back to Common Gallinule to go along with Azure and Purple. Now there’s a previous English name change that North American birders still bitch about. The sooner we dump Common Moorhen and go back to gallinule, the better. 

As an aside, a Moorhen was collected on Shemya Island this fall. With it being an immature (juvenile?) frontal shield characters can’t be used to identify it, but tissue was preserved and it is being analyzed now at the Museum at the University of Alaska. At least I believe this is the case. I’d be shocked if it came from the New World. So, we are soon likely facing the prospect of adding Common Moorhen back to the North American list, but as an accidental!

YES. Although I do not think that the genetic pattern of the species studied says very much (rallids on oceanic islands may diverge very quickly morphologically from volant ancestors, and may thereby make volant ancestor populations non-monophyletic), I would expect that vocalization are strongly selected as species specific cues in cryptic species like rallids.

YES, overdue. I’ve reviewed many recordings of both forms and am totally convinced this was a necessary split. Morphological differences, while rather subtle, are consistent in the sample I examined.

YES. I agree that genetic, vocal, and face-shield differences support a species-level split.

YES to split, NO to English name. I think it is a mistake to return to Common Gallinule. My suggestion is American Moorhen. American describes the range of the split taxon well, and means we won’t have an English name that at one time referred to a wider taxon. This species is part of a superspecies or at least a complex of species in which the other species are all Moorhens. I don’t really like Moorhen either, but we have called it that since the 6th edition, thus for nearly 30 years. Although us old-timers remember a day when this bird was a gallinule, most birders and ornithologists have only known it as a moorhen. I guess I don’t really understand the obsession with calling this bird a gallinule.

If the decision is made to return to gallinule, I would argue for American Gallinule. Common Gallinule does not really have a long history since before the 5th checklist the English name was Florida Gallinule. That name I think is clearly too provincial to resurrect.

2010-A-11: Place Sapayoa aenigma in its own family, Sapayoidae

YES. 2 without comment.

YES. The suboscines need some more family-level diversity.

YES, for reasons given in the proposal.

YES. It makes more in biogeographical sense to consider the four taxa (Afr. Broadbills, Asian broadbill, Asities, Sapayoa) separate families rather than one family. This also preserves the Philipettidae.

YES. Overdue.

YES. While I dislike monotypic families, especially in Passeriformes, the proposal has considerable merit (especially with the lineage’s age and the Philepittidae), and this elevation would be an improvement.

YES. This seems a somewhat arbitrary decision, but I cannot see placing the Philepittidae in the same family as the broadbills (and I have a fair amount of field experience with both groups).

YES. As noted in the proposal, this lineage has been isolated for as long a time as any lineage of passerine birds currently ranked at the family level – just in terms of age, it clearly deserves family rank as much as any current passeriform family. Further, the proposal points out that family rank is required to maintain monophyly of the Eurylaimidae if Philepittidae is to be maintained. The consequent family rank for the distinctive Calyptomenidae is also a positive step in my opinion given the age of that lineage.

YES. It is so strange it is (at least at this time) best put in a monotypic family. I wish I could go back in a time machine to see how the Eurylamidae and their allies became distributed as we now think they are.

NO. As far as I can see, there are no new data coming to bear on this topic. The data presented here is the same as that which caused us to place Sapayoa in Eurylaimidae in the first place in 2008. I am not certain that we recognized at the time we moved Sapayoa into Eurylaimidae that it had implications for asities. The SACC proposal for placing Sapayoa in Eurylaimidae has comments from the North American committee on the first round on Sapayoa, when we moved it from a monotypic family into a broad Eurylaimidae (see at http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCprop336.htm as well as the SACC members comments). 

One comment in particular from Gary Stiles is striking to me. He says “The phylogenetic data state overwhelmingly that Sapayoa is embedded in Eurylaimidae, not peripheral or basal to it; if Eurylaimidae were to be split, it would go with one of the families so formed – in either case, there seems no justification from phylogeny to place it in a monotypic family so either way, Sapayoidae would fall. If we have to change the family name at some point due to such a split, so be it – for now, evidence indicates placing it in a broad Eurylaimidae.” I think he is right. Our desire to maintain a monotypic Sapayoidae is essentially because we have problems really believing it is a broadbill, not because it is peripheral to the broadbills. The second problem seems to be that it is not clear which way Sapayoa goes if the broadbills are split, with Eurylaimidae or Calyptomenidae. But that is not a very compelling reason for recognizing a monotypic family in my view. It also seems a bit strange for us to be deciding, in our infinite wisdom, the appropriate treatment for a basically Old World complex in order to maintain a treatment of a single  New World taxon. Asities as broadbills seems weird to me, but I have seen 1 individual broadbill in my life and am not really qualified to make this call. I certainly believe that we need more information to make a clear decision on this.