2011-C-1: Change the English names of nine species extralimital to North America

YES to all, including change from Gray Frog-Hawk (Accipiter soloensis) to Chinese Sparrowhawk – 3 votes without additional comments..

YES to all. For 2011-C-1E, I fully support changing the awful name of Gray Frog-Hawk, but I prefer Chinese Goshawk to Chinese Sparrowhawk. I think we in North America are used to large sized birds with the name Goshawk, because of the Northern Goshawk, but many Old World species with the name goshawk are smaller. Moreover, Accipiter soloensis looks really different from most short and rather round-winged accipiters. They have long and rather slender and pointed wings, rather falcon like. That suits the over-water component of part of their migration. Actually, Northern Goshawk is long winged too and on several occasions, my first reaction on seeing an adult has been Peregrine. 

YES to all. Specific comments:

White-vented Storm-Petrel (Oceanites gracilis) to Elliot’s Storm-Petrel: This species doesn’t actually have the vent white; the vent is brown, while the belly is white, so the name White-vented is not helpful.

Gray Frog-Hawk (Accipiter soloensis) to Chinese Goshawk: A strong YES to changing it from Gray Frog-Hawk, a really dumb name! However, a NO vote to changing the name to Chinese Goshawk. It is surely better called Chinese Sparrowhawk based on size class alone. The only mainland Asian species now commonly called a goshawk is Crested Goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus), a rather large, very short-winged species. The Sulawesi Goshawk (A. griseiceps) is the largest of the three endemic Sulawesi species (which are called sparrowhawks), and probably closely related to Crested. The same is true in Madagascar, with the Henst’s Goshawk being the big one of the three endemics; the two smaller endemics are called sparrowhawks. Conversely, the Levant Sparrowhawk (Accipiter brevipes) has very long, pointed wings, and is a long-distance migrant. All the Australian, New Guinea, and Pacific species are called goshawk, surely for historical reasons only. A few of the larger African species are often called goshawks. Wing length and migratory habits have nothing to do with this. Grimmett et al. and Robson use Chinese Sparrowhawk. IOC also uses Chinese Sparrowhawk. I think we should frame this in the context of how the terms are used within Asia.

Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis) to Oriental Magpie-Robin: Clearly necessary as there are other magpie-robins!

YES to all. We should be grateful to Marshall Iliff for compiling and researching all these. These are all species out of our purview, and the changes are not in the spirit of finding the best names but to bring us in line with the names used in the primary regions of occurrence. If we are going to provide English names for these sorts of vagrants and introduced species, it’s our obligation to keep them in line with authoritative usage elsewhere.

YES. These are not our birds and I think that we should go along with the rest of the world.

YES to all. My only comment is that I prefer Chinese Sparrowhawk over Chinese Goshawk, and either over Gray Frog-Hawk.

YES to all but 2011-C-1H, including change from Gray Frog-Hawk (Accipiter soloensis) to Chinese Sparrowhawk. Specific comments:

ABSTAIN on all.

2011-C-2: Reclassify the Cuban Parrot (Amazona leucocephala) complex

YES. Confusing, but this seems to be supported by most of the evidence, although some bits by themselves are not convincing.

NO to the proposal as currently written, although YES to reclassifying the complex.. This proposal suggests using the PSC to evaluate species limits in Amazona because hybrids are known in the genus (!). I do agree that splits are needed in this complex—that the Grand Cayman, Bahamian, and Cuban populations should be recognized as full species. They are morphologically distinct, at least typically, and according to figure 4 in Russello et al. 2010 all populations clearly group within one of these three lineages, caymanensis being the most highly genetically distinct, sister to both bahamensis and leucocephala. So, I would vote for a three-way split at this time, but that is not an option as the proposal is presented. Although it seems doubtful whether the Bahamian populations should be split further at the species level, we should probably recognize them as three subspecies within bahamensis.

NO. 1 without comment.

NO. Many of the color variants cited occur within other Amazona species, and as many have noted, the significance of the vocalization data is questionable. I would like to have some additional molecular data (other than mtDNA) brought to bear on this question.

NO for now. This is a well-written, thorough proposal, and the data are suggestive of >1 species. However, as others have pointed out, our classification is based on the BSC and the proposal should be framed in that way. Also, it would be nice to have additional molecular (nuclear) data.

NO. OK for a PSC split but not enough to split by BSC standards. Although, I’m most intrigued by the Abaco birds and their nesting in limestone sink holes. Let’s say cavity nesting birds were introduced to Abaco from elsewhere (let’s hope not), I wonder how the nesting dynamics would get figured out in a mixed pair. 

NO. Perhaps there is more than one species, but this needs to be framed in the BSC for me to vote yes.

NO. This proposal is not compelling to me. This proposal splits leucocephala up as a phylogenetic species, so they don’t try very hard to justify the change within the biological species concept.  Might be separate species, but the data presented are not convincing. The high genetic distinctiveness is suggestive. The vocal and morphological data are not very impressive however.

NO. I do not see enough evidence here to recommend changing these taxa from subspecies. Diagnosability is not equal to species.

NO. I much appreciate the effort put into the very informative proposal, but our classification is not based on the PSC. Many of the sorts of plumage characters mentioned are not associated with barriers to gene flow in parrots; in fact, features such as differences in head (especially in distribution of red) and belly color show individual variation within other species of parrots. As for using comparative genetic distance data as a metric for species limits, this is a minefield of problems (in addition to being antithetical to the PSC). What grabs my attention, however, are the differences in the flight calls. The 2010 Reynolds et al. paper has the following statement in its abstract:

“Although diagnosability is important for examining taxonomic limits in birds, applying this principle to vocalizations may be problematic, particularly when a strong cultural component exists. This appears to be the case for psittacids, whose contact calls are subject to strong cultural influences (i.e., learning). Thus, the diagnosable differences we found among populations should not be interpreted as support for species-level differentiation.”

Nonetheless, I think these differences shouldn’t be dismissed completely. Are the differences in this complex greater than those among parapatric taxa ranked as species in Forpus and Pyrrhura? If so, I would reconsider this proposal. I suspect there is species-level diversity by BSC criteria hidden within our single species.

2011-C-3: Split Galapagos Shearwater Puffinus subalaris from P. lhermi (SACC #160)

YES. 6 without comments.

YES, but it would be nice to split out P. baroli (includes boydi) too as the genetic evidence in Austin et al. (2004) was compelling  in splitting out P. assimillis. The English name of Macaronesian Shearwater (or Macaronesia?) has often been used for those two taxa combined as their own species. Subspecies baroli is casual off our Atlantic coast (including a recent photo record of Massachusetts). 

YES. Clearly subalaris is not part of the assimilis/lherminieri group.

YES. This should have been done years ago, when a similar proposal was rejected.

YES. Thanks for waiting on species limits in lherminieri and assimilis.

2011-C-4: Recognize Bryan‘s Shearwater Puffinus bryani

YES. 8 without comments.

YES. Exciting new discovery, and great sleuthing by Peter Pyle.

YES. This is a nice story of biodiversity discovery.

2011-C-5: Split Pseudobulweria from Pterodroma

YES. 5 without comments.

NO. It would be one thing if the ~400 bp said something definitively, but there’s no support at the base of the tree. Combined with weak taxon sampling, it is unclear what the real situation truly is (e.g., is Pterodroma s.s. even monophyletic?).

NO. I agree with others that we need better taxon and gene sampling to act on this.

NO. More taxon sampling and much more genetic data needed.

NO. I think we have to wait for better taxon-sampling and gene-sampling. Maybe a tiny sequence (498 bp) of cytochrome b tells us all we need to know, but I think we have to wait for a broader study.

NO. I was close on this, because it is likely to be shown conclusively to be correct, but this small fragment, poor taxon sampling, and weakly supported nodes cause me to consider it not definitive at this time.

2011-C-6: Elevate indica group of Hill Myna Gracula religiosa to species status

YES. 3 without comments.

YES. But I really do not like Common Hill Myna; it is too similar to Common Myna.

YES. If anyone on the committee would like further information on differences in vocalisations, I have a lot of recordings from various sources that are not publicly available.

NO. Needs to be published per established standards.

NO, because of the lack of published evidence to support this.

NO. I could go along with this, if there was agreement with various Asian authorities, but I don’t believe there is. Inskipp et al. (1996) did not recognize this split though they cite a footnote from Bertram (1969) ‘that study of the behavior and calls of these birds in the field and in captivity makes it clear that G. r. indica and G. r. intermedia would not interbreed if their ranges were to meet and that they should therefore be consider to be distinct species.  Inskipp et al. (1996) close with “Futher study is required.” Grimmett et al. (1999) don’t recognize the split. I haven’t checked to see if the OBC has revised this. I see from Feare and Craig (1999) that the split is recognized, and they cite vocal and behavioral differences, but I can’t find any reference to behavior differences in the accounts for each species. Back to the vocal differences, the birds from Khao Yai (about two hours driving to the northeast from Bangkok) to my ear sound very different from those in dry deciduous forest north of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. I was thinking that they were an Old World oriole when I first heard them and think the call I heard was the piercing “ti-ong” described by Paul Holt in Grimmett et al. (1999). Those from Khao Yai give high pitched single notes. OK, this is an introduced bird and not very widely established in the US (still not accepted by ABA), but I’d like to see a bit more agreement by Asian authorities. Perhaps that is the case now.

NO. I’m sure this will be shown to be correct, but at present, this is a split based on field guide anecdote. Actually, the earlier Feare & Craig (1998) book on starlings and mynas splits this species into four, one of which is the indica group, but again, this is not based on a comprehensive study. If the differences are that obvious, then it won’t take much effort to publish a paper we can cite for the data. We have rejected many a proposal before that was based on similar field guide anecdote. Because of the absence of published data, the current draft of the revision of Dickinson (2003) retains broadly defined G. religiosa. Also, note that the Lovette & Rubenstein (2007 MPE, Fig. 2) phylogeny of the family was unable to detect any genetic differences (5 mtDNA and 4 nuclear introns) between the two.

NO, based on other comments.

2011-C-7: Move Pipra coronata to the genus Lepidothrix

YES. 8 without comments.

YES. Long overdue.

YES. That this hadn’t been done previously is pure oversight.

2011-C-8: Correct several minor errors/typos in the Check-list

YES. 9 without comments.

YES. But as I have suggested in the past, I do not think such items should be treated as proposals per se but as simple corrigenda.

2011-C-9: Modify the species-level taxonomy of the Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis

YES. With very mixed feelings, I vote for 3 species.

YES. I favor the 3 taxon solution.

YES for option 1b (2 species). This recognizes the main point of concordance between the mtDNA and phenotypic data. I’m uncertain what the situation is between beldingi and rostratus, and additional molecular data would help clear that up to my satisfaction. I don’t see any compelling reason to recognize sanctorum.

YES for option 1b ( recognize two species, P. sandwichensis and P. guttatus). Obviously a more thorough genetic analysis is needed, but beldingirostratus, and sanctorum all group together in Clade C of Zink et al. There appear to be at least two consistent differences in songs on xeno-canto between halophilus of the rostratus group+beldingi and the nominate group: the former has some short near-horizontal slurred notes early in the strophe, and does not have lower-pitched later elements.

YES (option 1b) – recognition at this time of two species, P. sandwichensis and the saltmarsh group (although doesn’t rostratus have priority for this group?). While it would be good to see a multilocus demonstration of reproductive isolation (considering Zink et al. (2005:26): “Further sampling along the California coast between San Diego and Suisan Bay is required to locate the contact zone between the two major groups.” ), I consider that the regular occurrence of seasonal migrants offers opportunities for gene flow that the N = 41 for Clade C has some reasonable power to detect. Its absence, therefore, coupled with the phenotypic distinctiveness, provides decent evidence of reproductive isolation (though I remain curious about what levels of gene flow might occur at the contact zone).

YES only to splitting off P. rostratus (atratus as a subspecies). The entire Pacific coast situation is a mess and I’m not sure how the Bay area birds fit in. Basically, despite their darker appearance the coastal central and southern CA birds sound to my ear like Savannah Sparrows elsewhere, unlike the situation with “Large-billed.” When I first heard “Large-billed” and I believe it was contact notes, I was struck that the call was quite different, and Kimball Garrett has been consistently struck by the difference in both call notes and song. Sure, this would be good to have published with sonograms. Seeing these things in the field, especially around the edge (literally) of the Salton Sea is also pretty compelling. One can predict with near 100% accuracy which type of Savannah Sparrow it will be based on habitat. The “Large-billed” creep around on rocks and stone siding along the actual shore of the Sea and will also use mudflats in association with stunted salt cedar, while the other Savannahs (mainly nevadensis) are in the fields. Yeah, I know princeps likes the dunes in winter so a similar case can be made on the Atlantic coast, but here there is no known vocal difference and the genetic difference were slight as I recall. As for the San Benito Sparrow, it’s restricted to an island, so it utilizes what it can find. Are there vocal difference?

YES, in order of preference: 1a then 1b, then 1c, then 1d & 1e.

NO. As others have pointed out, there is nothing new from the earlier proposal when I also voted no. I think we need some nuclear data to corroborate the mtDNA data. It would also be nice to have quantitative analyses of song differences.

NO. Nothing has really changed since the 2008 proposal, when I voted no.

NO. This is a tough one, and the proposal did not list the only option I’d vote for at this point, namely treating San Benito sanctorum as a separate species from the rest. As much as I appreciate the many points in the proposal, I disagree with the statement that we’re never going to get any more data. Recording and analyzing song variation among these groups should not be that difficult, and with the exception of San Benito, access to all populations is straightforward as far as I know. I listened to all the songs available at Xeno-Canto (http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Passerculus-sandwichensis) and with all appropriate caveats, was impressed with how superficially similar the songs are from the beldingi and rostratus groups to those of widespread Savannahs; that said, I’m also impressed with the potential differences in more subtle aspects of their songs. On the other hand, even within Ontario, subtle geographic song variation has been detected (Sung & Handford, 2006, Canadian J. Zoology), so any variation among taxa has to be studied in careful detail. Also, the subspecies magdalenae in the beldingi group that is geographically closest to the rostratus group is also somewhat intermediate between the two groups, which is troubling. Here’s what van Rossem (1947) wrote in his description:

“This race is the culmination of the strongly yellow-browed, peninsular Savannah Sparrows with relatively slender bills which average less (usually much less) than 7.0 millimeters in depth at base. It forms a good connecting link between the smaller-billed, more northern guttatus and the larger-billed rostratus group of the continental mainland and the San Benito Islands in that it possesses the essential coloration of the former combined with the general large size of the latter.”

By the way, van Rossem’s 1947 paper in the Condor (A synopsis of the Savannah Sparrows of Northwestern Mexico) has color plates of the Mexican taxa and is very useful.

The same proposal was submitted in 2008.  Here’s what I wrote then, and I stand behind it:

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.”

Four more years, and no change in published data on song differences.

2011-C-10: Elevate Synthliboramphus hypoleucus scrippsi and S. h. hypoleucus to species

YES. 4 without comments.

YES. The evidence is very compelling.

YES, especially given the vocal differences. I guess it’s Scripp’s and Xantus’s (for the nominate). I’m told that AOU once said that if a species name is changed due to a split, that new English names will be adopted. If that was a procedure, it was violated with Winter Wren. But I like patronyms and am happy with Scripp’s and Xantus’s. If an alternate for Xantus’s was adopted, then Guadalupe Murrelet should be considered as that is where most breed. As for the Birt et al. (2012) paper, I’m not sure how much is advanced beyond Jehl and Bond (1975) other than the genetic evidence. The latter authors hit a road block with the intermediate birds from the San Benito Islands. Birt et al. (2012) conclude that the intermediates aren’t hybrids because the three sampled fit with one species or the other. So, if they are intermediate appearing they could be one species or the other, and this conclusion was based only on tissues from three specimens?  Some 30% of the San Benito Islands breeding birds were intermediate. If it’s not hybridization, then what? Obviously more work is needed. But even a high ratio of hybridization (30%) would probably still meet a species definition under the BSC concept. And the nominate race really does prefer deep water for feeding as Birt et al. (2012). This is true not only around the breeding islands, but when they disperse north off California. The nominate race is typically recorded far out to sea while scrippsi is routine much closer to shore.

YES. Slam dunk.

YES. Seems clear-cut.

YES. Sympatric with essentially no gene flow. End of discussion. I wish it were always this straightforward.

YES. The evidence is quite good.

2011-C-11: Change English name of Columbina inca from Inca Dove to Aztec Dove

YES. Although I can see the reason for maintaining status quo, I can also see when something is truly inappropriate. And a fitting new name.

YES. I am generally opposed to changing established names too, but having myself changed a few really bad Indian bird names (South Asian, not Native American!) in the past I guess this one really is no different, so it would be hypocritical of me to vote no on this one.

YES. I have no enthusiasm for this, but Inca Dove is a “strange” name. Why not Aztec Dove? Or, perhaps, one of the Spanish names?

YES. My self-esteem plummets with each day that passes while we continue to perpetuate this embarrassing name.

NO. This is too well established.

NO. The name doesn’t reflect our ignorance, but Lesson’s. This vote is for stability.

NO. I agree that the name is inappropriate, but also favor stability and am swayed by comments from others.

NO. I was a reluctant yes on this, but then canvassed some respected birders and was met with complete non enthusiasm. English name changes always invite acrimony and I fear that result here. I heard lots of why just change that one? Inca Dove is well established and I don’t see the positives for the change and I can see lots of groaning. OK, no Inca native ever saw a real Inca Dove. But how much better is Aztec Dove?  From reading Howell, this bird is perhaps most numerous on the Pacific slope, so maybe Yaqui Dove. I wondered about Mayan Dove, but the Yucatan is the one place in Mexico it doesn’t occur, so that seemed inappropriate. 

NO. This is a solution logo-auk-aou.png” border=”0″ width=”240″ height=”146″ for a problem. Yes, Inca Dove is not an appropriate name for the species. It has nothing to do with the Incas or the area occupied by the Incas. But the name is based on the specific epithet, and as far as I can tell, the species has always been called Inca Dove, except by those who lump it into squammata, when it becomes Scaled Dove. Even if Inca Dove morally offended me, somehow changing it to Aztec Dove, yet another pre-Columbian empire that has only a tenuous relationship to the bird, seems like a not very useful English name. I really can’t see the value in changing the long-used Inca Dove to Aztec Dove.


2011-C-12: Transfer the three North American species of Carpodacus to Haemorhous

YES. 4 without comments.

YES. This seems well supported.

YES, but can someone tell me how to pronounce the new genus? After having watched loads of Common Rosefinches for several decades, I can well appreciate that our birds aren’t related to them. 

YES. This is unambiguous. The credit for figuring out that Haemorhous is available goes to Dario Zuccon, who did the research on this issue.

YES. The phylogeny requires a new genus for this group.

YES. I favored the movement of these taxa out of Carpodacus the last time it was suggested, and the issue of the possible relationship of purpureus to erythrinus that sank it last time is dealt with by this more recent study. It is clear that Haemorhous is not preoccupied and so available as the name for the New World species.

YES. The evidence looks conclusive now. I did a little checking on Boie’s Haemorrhois (no originals here), and that seems to be correct (though it appears to be a genus of snakes).

2011-C-13: Move genus Pyrrhula to follow Pinicola in the linear sequence

YES. 7 without comments.

YES. Vocal contact notes sound very similar to my ear between these two. 

YES. This is well-supported.

YES. The new phylogenetic data require this move.

2011-C-14: Adopt Guadalupe Murrelet and Ashy Hawk as the English names for Synthliboramphus hypoleucus and Buteo plagiatus, respectively

YES on both of the English name changes. I strongly feel that they both should have different names. I don’t care what they are so far as there isn’t any confusion, but they should be different. I assume that the names proposed were carefully considered, and thus support them.  

YES on both of the English name changes, although I don’t really expect that we will change Gray Hawk, and might change my vote if it looked like a danger.  

On hypoleucos and scrippsi murrelets, I looked at the recently published Birds of Washington (Wahl et al 2005), and Birds of Oregon (Marshall et al 2003). For British Columbia I looked at  CARTER, H.R., SEALY, S.G., BURKETT, E.E. & PIATT, J.F. 2005. Biology and conservation of Xantus’s Murrelet: discovery, taxonomy, and distribution. Marine Ornithology 33: 81–87. I would say that at the level of specificity of our range descriptions that having their wintering ranges identical seems reasonable, although it appears that scrippsi is more common farther north; hypoleucus may be more common farther offshore. Both have been recorded a number of times off both states as evidenced by specimens and/or photos. I can’t tell for sure that hypoleucus has been recorded off British Columbia. The one issue is that it sounds like their status is more than “casual.”  There are 40 records off of Grays Harbor, Washington. 106 birds seen Aug-Sep 2001 off Oregon-Washinton, mostly more than 90 km offshore. So I would definitely change the scrippsi range to read “Winters primarily from northern California south to southern Baja California, rarely farther north (recorded from off the coasts of Oregon, Washington, to central British Columbia).” Could add something in the note like “Relative non-breeding distributions of S. hypoleucus and S. scrippsi not well understood.” One other thing is that the northern records seem like they are mostly post-breeding season, late summer and fall rather than winter. I don’t really know if they withdraw southward in winter. Can we use something like “non-breeding range rather than winters” in our range description?

YES for Guadalupe Murrelet – 4 without comments.

YES for Guadalupe Murrelet. In this case, a new name for hypoleucus is exceptionally important because the two are broadly sympatric, thus leading to potential widespread confusion in popular literature etc. with respect to “Xantus’s Murrelet” – one would always have to specific whether this refers to pre-split or post-split, or adding “sensu stricto” etc.

YES for Guadeloupe Murrelet. It’s appropriate, may have conservation value, and avoids potential confusion.

NO for Ashy Hawk – 3 without comments.

NO for Ashy Hawk. I prefer to keep Gray Hawk, which should not cause much confusion, as Marshall points out.

NO for Ashy Hawk. Gray-lined Hawk is different from Gray Hawk, and as Marshall notes reflects the overall coloration (fewer lines), and it’s well established. I can’t imagine any enthusiasm for Ashy Hawk and it seems contrived in an effort to find a new name.

NO for Ashy Hawk. As much as I support the general policy, as outlined by Marshall, I am also equally concerned about stability. “Gray Hawk” would stay the same for the vast majority of the English-speakers who would use an English name for a bird in this complex. Further, there is a little bit of a track record for keeping “Gray” in the two-species treatment (e.g, Sibley & Monroe 1990). Bottomline = I predict a lot of people here would have a tough time switching from a good and traditional name to a novel concoction just because of a split “thousands of miles away.”

NO on both of the English name changes.

ABSTAIN, but I would note our recent Winter/Pacific Wren split with respect to coming up with completely new names when we do make a split.