2011-B-1: Recognize Baird’s Junco (Junco bairdii) as a distinct species

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. I would wonder what the basis was for lumping this species in the first place? If the songs are different and distinctly so, that tips the scales for me.

YES. The degree of morphological difference is indicative of, and strong vocal differences support, species status.

NO. Does a dialect a species make?

NO. I agree that song can be useful in recognizing species limits in oscines, but in conjunction with molecular and other data. Playback experiments would be very useful here. I looked up the Junco genetic study by Mila et al. (Proc. Royal Soc. London B, 2007) that used mtDNA and AFLP data, but unfortunately they did not have any samples from the southern tip of Baja. I suspect that bairdii may turn out to be a full species, but I don’t think we have sufficient evidence yet for a split.

NO. I went to xeno-canto to hear how different the bairdii was from Arizona and Oaxaca populations of phaeonotus. The differences between the Arizona pop and bairdii are huge, but the Oaxaca pop is somewhat intermediate, and clearly shows that the diversity within phaeonotus approaches bairdii. I really do not see reason to think of this as anything but a well marked subspecies.

NO. Song analyses when song is learned are not sufficient indicators of species limits. Morphological differences are better evidence, but allopatry alone does not indicate species limits, and degrees of morphological divergence have to be considered relative to other subspecies and other species of Junco.

NO. First, I wish that everyone would stop dismissing song in oscines as simply a learned trait that has no meaning in determining species limits. Yes, all evidence points to learning as the mode for oscine song acquisition, but what seems largely forgotten is that there is a hard-wired genetic component to what they learn if given a choice, i.e., they might be capable of learning a variety of songs and noises, but if exposed to the parental song, THAT is the one that is learned. This was clearly shown experimentally decades ago by Marler in Swamp Sparrow (e.g., Science 1977) and other sparrows. Even without those experiments, one of course could have predicted a strong genetic component from the simple observation that our local oscines sing their own species’ song rather than a montage of the many local songs they hear during their formative period or the first song they were exposed to or whatever.

Second, learned or not, oscine song is a good marker for species limits; in fact, this works better in oscines than in some suboscines (some Furnariidae) and some nonpasserines. The exceptional variety of song types and dialects in oscines is of course related to their learning ability; nonetheless, discrete song differences coincide with species limits in virtually every case I can think of. In fact, we’ve used song differences for support of several of our NACC-endorsed splits (e.g. solitary vireo complex, plain titmouse complex, Bahama-Pinelands Warbler, etc.).

So, the appropriate question is whether the differences documented by Pieplow & Francis are to the degree shown by taxa that we rank as species or as subspecies in related groups. The answer is really given by the authors themselves in the Abstract “Additional investigations using playback experiments and genetic analyses may be warranted to better evaluate the merits of promoting J. p. bairdi to species status” and Discussion “It is clear the song of J. p. bairdi is distinct from that of other Yellow-eyed Junco subspecies, but whether this difference is indicative of an important reproductive barrier is unknown”.

So, I vote NO on this. However, I predict that the original Howell & Webb assessment will turn out to be correct once those playback trials are conducted.

NO. I think this study of the song differences between bairdii and two populations of phaeonotus is very interesting, but not by itself sufficient to split the taxon from phaeonotus. Even the authors of the WJO article indicate that they think that the song differences are suggestive but not sufficient in and of themselves. The discriminant function axis that separates bairdii from the other two is primarily based on two characters, song length and no. of phrases that one might think are highly correlated.  

In terms of plumage, bairdii is certainly not as distinct from phaeonotus as various subspecies of hyemalis are from each other. Further, in my experience, there is variation in songs among the hyemalis subspecies groups. My memory is that dorsalis (the southern version of Gray-headed) seemed most distinguishable among the hyemalis groups.  

If this were really a cut-and-dried slam dunk, I would go along with the split, but it isn’t. Given that, I think there needs to be more than the fact that an isolated population has a distinct voice, especially in an oscine, to support species status. I suspect that at some point, we will split up juncos again to some greater or lesser degree, but I can’t see a sufficient argument for doing this with bairdii at present.

NO, based on other comments.

2011-B-2: Rearrange the sequence of species in the genus Spizella

YES. Not likely to be superseded soon.

YES, but with little enthusiasm.

YES. With no suggested change in species limits the suggested change in relationships among species seems to be adequately supported by the data.

NO. Where is arborea? The article suggests arborea is not in Spizella, but we have never moved it so must treat it. If it is listed either first or last, I will vote yes on this proposal.

NO. This makes me uneasy and it’s all based on single specimens for each species. In particular, I’m unhappy to see Brewer’s placed well away from Clay-colored. The two have identical sounding flight notes to my ears and I believe the chip notes are the same as well. Field Sparrow has a distinctive chip note, almost like an Orange-crowned. I’m not sure what the chip or flight calls of the Worthen’s is. The flight note of Chipping is quite unlike anything that Brewer’s or Clay-colored give. And what of American Tree? My own view is that Worthen’s may have had a breeding population in the Southwest at or near Silver City and elsewhere and they were extirpated along with other grassland species or subspecies (e.g. Masked Bobwhite) before the turn of the century. I don’t think there is any evidence for any movements in Worthen’s Sparrow, just extirpated populations.

NO. I would much rather have the taxa being represented by more than one individual. The COI is from barcoding data, and may not be from vouchered specimens. I would prefer to wait for a more expansive phylogenetic analysis, especially given the results did not follow what we have inferred from plumage.

NO. The results are suggestive but I think a larger sample size is needed before the rearrangement is enacted, especially since this is an unexpected result given the close morphological similarity of pusilla and wortheni.

NO. I have to say that I would be surprised that pusilla and wortheni ended up not being sisters, but I have been wrong before and will be wrong again. Like the proposal says, I am a little concerned about the small sample size, 1 individual apiece, no taverneri (although that taxon showed little or no separation from breweri) and no arborea. The authors say that molecular studies have shown that arborea doesn’t belong with Spizella, but even so I am a little surprised that they don’t even include it among their outgroups.

In terms of the suggested sequence, a simpler change would be consistent with the results of the study, so if the committee wanted to recognize the sister relationship between wortheni and breweri, we could just flip the positions of wortheni and  pusilla in our sequence so:


The position of atrogularis in this study is unclear, essentially there is a trichotomy among pallida, (pusilla (breweri + wortheni), and atrogularis. There seems to me to be no reason to tinker with its current placement. Of course this minimally invasive rearrangement also does not clearly indicate that wortheni is sister to breweri and not pusilla, but neither did the arrangement given in the proposal.

So finally, I vote against making any change currently, but if the committee thinks we need to recognize the worthenibreweri sister relationship based on this study, I recommend the simpler change in sequence I suggest above.

NO. As noted by everyone, the N=1 for each taxon. Further, I’ve gone through the paper twice and am unable to spot any indication that the specimen of wortheni or any other samples used is supported by vouchers. How do we even know that the single wortheni specimen was correctly identified? John Klicka does solid work on vouchered specimens, so I’m surprised by the omission of such details – did I miss them? [Parenthetically, we published a paper in this same journal, MPE, in 2009 pointing out the scientific importance of reporting the existence and deposition of vouchers, so I wonder why MPE published our paper if their own policies continue to ignore it?] Also, the gene sampling is restricted to mtDNA, thus elevating concerns for problems with incorrect lineage-sorting. That wortheni and breweri are sisters is enough of a surprise (wortheni formerly considered a subspecies of pusilla for good reason – it looks like an arid habitat, Gloger’s Rule version of Field Sparrow; see the Canales-del-Castillo et al. paper) that a delay until better data available is justifiable.

Or is it a surprise? If you listen to recordings of wortheni (try Macaulay or Xeno- Canto websites), its song is a flat, dry trill that really sounds like the introductory trill of many breweri songs and unlike pusilla songs. As noted by Canales-del-Castillo et al., other authors have pointed out that Worthen’s sounds more like a Chipping than a Field. On the other hand, bioacoustic selection or stochastic change could modify the song to obscure any phylogenetic signal, as in the sisters White-crowned/Golden-crowned sparrows (the latter sounding more like White-throated). Regardless, the evidence is a little shaky, and I suggest we hold out for better data, or perhaps go with the alternate sequence suggested in these comments to cover both possibilities.

NO. Like others, I am concerned by the taxon sampling, small sample size (n = 1 per taxon), and lack of nDNA to corroborate the mtDNA. The authors justify excluding arborea because other data (Carson and Spicer 2003) showed it to be outside of Spizella and sister to Passerella iliaca, but bootstraps are low in that analysis. Before we completely rearrange the squence of species in Spizella, I think we need a more thorough analysis with better sampling and nDNA gene sequences. However, I could agree with the suggestion to switch the positions of wortheni and pusilla in our current sequence to better reflect the possibility of a sister relationship between wortheni and breweri. That solution seems minimally invasive and is consistent with the study.

2011-B-3: Split Caprimulgus into multiple genera

YES. 7 without comments.

YES (including retaining Phalaenoptilus), for reasons given in the proposal.

YES (retaining Phalaenoptilus). The results of Han et al’s study are not too surprising. Most of the large genera with pantropical/subtropical distributions (e.g., OtusColumba, etc.) have found to be not monophyletic. Given the conservative nature of plumage evolution in the Caprimulgiformes, it is not surprising that generic allocations within the New World are different than what we thought.

YES. For NACC area, this one is simple.

2011-B-4: Rearrange the linear sequence of genera in the Furnariidae (SACC #504)

YES. 8 without comments.

YES. Great work.

YES. It seems like the foliage-gleaners will be jostled further once their generic allocations are established, but overall this sequence looks like it will be fairly stable for the NACC taxa.

2011-B-5: Revise limits of Buteogallus and Leucopternis (SACC #459SACC #460, and SACC #492)

YES (agree with the sequence provided before the Lit Cited in the proposal). It seems that a sub-proposal to move Harpyhaliaetus solitarius to Buteogallus is lacking in the proposal. Why are we not moving Buteo albicaudatus to Geranoaetus??? (the SACC did this and Raposo et al. tree supports this)

YES on A, B, and C; NO on D and E – 7 without comments.

YES on A, B, and C; NO on D and E. I’m persuaded by SACC arguments and therefore vote with their consensus.

NO. This is only a part of a large rearrangement that needs to be done. 

2011-B-6: Treat Basileuterus hypoleucus as conspecific with Basileuterus culicivorus (SACC #493)

YES. 5 without comments.

YES, for reasons given in the proposal.

YES. Agree with proposal and SACC.

YES, per SACC comments.

YES. Done by SACC, and clearly justified from the data.

YES. The songs certainly are very similar, and the introgression shows they aren’t a good biological species.

2011-B-7: Change linear sequence of orders for Falconiformes and Psittaciformes (SACC #491A)

YES. 4 without comments.

YES, reluctantly. Again, this is only part of the puzzle.

YES. This result seems here to stay. If only we still had seriemas up north so that we could move them too!

YES. Multiple independent data sets support these relationships.

YES. But, it’s going to be hard to get used to the falcons being well isolated away from the rest of the hawks, etc.

YES. I think this makes sense now that we have already split the Accipitriiformes from the Falconiformes.

YES. Data solid on this change.

2011-B-8: Add European Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) to the US list

YES. 7 without comments.

YES. The Maine and Delaware birds were accepted by their state records committees. The bird is on the checklist for Alaska, but I could not find a website for the Alaska Records Committee.

YES. How did we overlook that publication for so long?

YES. Surprised it hadn’t been added already.

2011-B-9: Change name of the family Pteroclididae (sandgrouse) to Pteroclidae

YES. 8 without comments.

YES (reluctantly). When this family was added to the check-list for the 1983 edition, there was discussion on the formation of this name, and Pteroclididae was chosen deliberately. We did not blindly follow Peters, but based the decision on what we thought the root of the word to be—all of us being so fluent in ancient greek.

YES. The following was posted in the taxonomy and nomenclature forum of Bird Forum website (scroll down a few posts on  http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=214277&page=2): “The Pteroclididae name had been used by others earlier than Peters 1937 for sandgrouses including Shufeldt in 1904. Aggassiz in 1848 reports that Pteroclididae is a variety of Pteroclinae a fish name by Swainson and so is preoccupied. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse is an established breeder in Hawaii.”