2014-A-1: Transfer Spinus notatus, S. xanthrogastrus, and S. cucullatus to Sporagra (SACC #488)

YES. 1 without comment.

NO. 5 without comment.

NO. As pointed out in the proposal, there are limitations to the data sets, but the Zuccon et al. (2012) paper provides strong support for monophyly of the taxa in question. I agree with the proposal that we should retain the taxa in Spinus for now.

NO. Given that all American siskin/goldfinch taxa (plus Spinus spinus) create a monophyletic group according to the genetic data of Zuccon et al. (2012), I think that the best course of action is to follow their recommendations and keep all of our goldfinch/siskin taxa in Spinus. This minimizes changes but maintains monophyly.

NO. More data and taxon sampling are needed.

NO. I like the idea of both proposals 2014-A-1 and 2014-A-2 and have voted for these changes before, but the results from Zuccon et al (2012) suggest that at best it is premature to make either of these changes. I favor maintaining the status quo of all the New World taxa in Spinus until further data clearly demonstrate a different arrangement.

2014-A-2: Transfer Spinus psaltria, S. lawrencei, and S. tristis to Astralaginus or to Sporagra

YES (Astralaginus).

NO. 5 without comment.

NO. The studies by Arnaiz-Villena et al. (2007, 2008), which are based only on mtDNA, place psaltria, tristis, and lawrencei as a clade sister to spinus, notatus, dominicensispinus, and atriceps with low basal support. While the mtDNA plus nuclear data in Nguembock et al. (2009) suggest that psaltria is not closely related to spinus, the omission of the other relevant taxa in this study is a serious limitation. Furthermore, the data of Zuccon et al. (2012) provide strong support for monophyly of the taxa currently in Spinus. I agree with the proposal that we should retain the taxa in Spinus for now.

NO. The placement of psaltria in Nguembock et al.’s (2009) phylogeny looks anomalous to me, and with the omission of closely related taxa (tristis and lawrencei, as well as notatuspinus, and atriceps) we cannot really see if this drastic difference from Arnaiz-Villena et al. (2007, 2008) is real or some sort of error. It could also be a problem with spinus, which was included in Nguembock et al., but that taxon grouped in a clade with Loxia and Acanthis in that study, and not with the New World siskin/goldfinches (tristis and lawrencei, as well as notatuspinus, and atriceps) found by Arnaiz-Villena et al. (2007, 2008). I really would like to see some a more strongly supported and sampled phylogeny before moving these taxa again.

NO. More data and taxon sampling are needed.

NO. I like the idea of both proposals 2014-A-1 and 2014-A-2 and have voted for these changes before, but the results from Zuccon et al (2012) suggest that at best it is premature to make either of these changes. I favor maintaining the status quo of all the New World taxa in Spinus until further data clearly demonstrate a different arrangement.

2014-A-3: Split the Variable Seedeater Sporophila americana (SACC #287)

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. I agree that molecular data are needed, but vote in support of this change for consistency with the SACC.

YES, but this should be change S. americana to S. corvina. Stiles showed that S. americana does not occur in the AOU area.

YES. This seems non-controversial.

YES, although as most SACC members point out this is likely not the last word on this group. The proposed species limits do however seem more in line with treatments of other taxa within the genus.

YES, for all the reasons outlined in Stiles’s original SACC proposal.

YES. This will put us in agreement with SACC, and seems like the best arrangement for this group based on current knowledge.

YES. However, I agree that molecular datasets for the genus are really needed to fully understand relationships and species limits.

2014-A-4: Replace the family name Megaluridae with Locustellidae

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. The fact that “Locustella is the only genus of this new family recorded in the AOU Check-list of North American Birds” is irrelevant.

YES. Too bad we did not catch this before we did the changes in the 51st supplement.

YES. Non-controversial.

YES. I agree with all of the information available.

YES. This is clear.

YES. This is a mandatory change under the Code with respect to group-names (oldest group name must used).

YES. No choice.

2014-A-5: Elevate Rallus longirostris crepitansR. l. obsoletus, and Rallus elegans tenuirostris to species rank

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. Nice work.

YES. However, I don’t like the name Ridgway’s Rail.

YES. What about yumanensis that is as far as I know totally a fresh water marsh species? Much is made about the habitat preferences with the various groups, but this inconvenient choice (yumanensis) seems to get glossed over. Seems like other than geographic proximity it could fit within tenurostris group.

YES. This seems like the best arrangement for a longstanding difficult group. The genetic groups match up pretty well with morphology, plumage and habitat. While tenuirostris and obsoletus are closer genetically than perhaps you’d like to see, their very distinctly different habitats and elevations argue for continuing the status quo of not considering them conspecific.

I would like to bring up the issue of English names in these rails. The proposal suggests using King Rail for the more limited version of elegans (eastern NA), and Clapper Rail for the subunit crepitans (NA pops to Caribbean and eastern Mexico). Usually (not always), we give a new name to the subunits when we do a split. For King Rail, almost all of that species’ range remains in elegans, and tenuirostris is mostly unknown to ornithologists and birders. I don’t think the continued use of King Rail for elegans will cause any confusion. The use of Clapper Rail for crepitans is much more problematic. The South American populations and western populations of ex-Clapper Rail are widespread and common. I personally have seen many more of each of them than crepitans. This means that people will be used to a very different concept of Clapper Rail. We should really consider whether there is an alternative to Clapper Rail for crepitans. I do not currently have a good idea (Saltmarsh Rail?). One minor note is while I think Mangrove Rail is a fine name for Rallus longirostris as defined in this proposal, both crepitans and obsoletus are largely restricted to mangroves in the southern parts of their distributions.

YES. I agree that the current phylogeny does reflect the species level diversity. It is pretty neat that two ancestral taxa speciated the same way ecologically (and, to a degree, in plumage), splitting into a dull salt water species (R. obsoletus and crepitans) and a brighter fresh water species (R. tenuirostris and elegans). I would like to see some more discussion on English names. Maybe we can again go public for input. We will get hammered for keeping one of the new species Clapper Rail, but I am not too opposed. Aztec Rail I like. Ridgway’s Rail is less appealing.

YES. The molecular data combined with information on hybridization, and clear selection against hybrids, warrants elevating these to species. I agree that we need more discussion on English names.

YES. I applaud that the proposal gives genetic and geographic congruence to a group long misunderstood. About the common name (although Aztec Rail is a name that I like a lot, of course!), there is a name in Ridgway’s Part 9 (1941:81): “Mexican [Clapper] Rail” (Mexican Rail in Howell & Webb 1995), that I think is better to retain.

YES. The combination of phylogenetic information with data on limited hybridization of some ecologically parametric forms is convincing.

YES, although the evidence seems a bit weaker for obsoletus and tenuirostris being separate species than for the others. Granted, given that they have long been considered to belong to separate species, lumping those two while splitting the others would be an unusual step.

YES. The authors’ taxonomic arrangement matches best the existing data. The elegans and crepitans groups have extensive, multiple contact zones, yet hybridization is limited by apparent selection against hybrids; thus, they have to be treated as separate species. Ripley’s treatment (in his Rallidae monograph) of them as conspecific is incorrect. Given that the other two groups are successively more distantly related to the two for which we have a test of sympatry, the logical taxonomic treatment is to consider them each also as separate species.

As for English names:

Aztec Rail for R. tenuirostris: The Maley-Brumfield name is a good one, or at least better than anything else I’ve seen suggested. “Mexican” (although used by Ridgway and others) is bad for a number of reasons, including that other members of this same complex also occur in Mexico and that tenuirostris occupies but a tiny portion of that country.

King Rail for R. elegans: Although the normal policy is to create new names for daughter species to avoid confusion with broader taxonomic concept of parent, the range and “literature space” occupied by this vs. R. tenuirostris is so skewed that the disruption of stability for the North American bird is not worth it. I know of only one minor paper on tenuirostris, and Google Scholar has only 20 hits for this taxon vs. 1,120 for “R. elegans” s.l.). Also, these two are NOT sisters, so not really “daughters” in the phylogenetic sense, but only under an erroneous taxonomic concept. See further discussion below on this point.

Mangrove Rail for R. longirostris: Again, the Maley-Brumfield name is a good one for reasons stated in their paper. In the case of R. longirostris (s.l.) vs. Clapper Rail (s.s.), the ratio of geographic range sizes is not highly asymmetrical – the Mangrove Rail’s range actually might be larger and certainly includes far more countries. However, the “literature space” ratio is even more highly skewed (e.g., 3 vs. 2,380 Google Scholar hits) than in the King Rail example, and to the best of my knowledge, not one paper has ever been published on the species. In other words, the Mangrove Rail is a remarkably obscure bird relative to Clapper Rail (s.s.).

Ridgway’s Rail for R. obsoletus and retaining Clapper Rail for R. crepitans: This is the one that will be controversial, on two fronts, namely (A) NOT coining new names for all daughter species, and (B) use of a patronym.

First, Problem A: New names for “daughter” species:

I favor ditching the usual policy on this one for the following reasons. Note that strict adherence to that policy would have produced “Cuban Red-winged Blackbird” (instead of Red-shouldered Blackbird) and “Common Red-winged Blackbird” for the species that occupies 99+% of the range of this lineage, much to the horror of anyone with any sense of English bird names.  

1. This is not the usual case of splitting. The whole point of the Maley-Brumfield paper, and the reason that we are changing species limits, is that the obsoletus group is NOT the closest relative of the true Clapper Rail, R. crepitans. The sisters, already split, are Clapper Rail and King Rail. Thus, this is NOT the same as in, for example, Solitary Vireo splitting 3 ways, with each daughter getting a new name, and retaining a handy “Solitary Vireo” for the threesome. In fact, referring to crepitans + obsoletus + longirostris collectively as “Clapper Rail” perpetuates this misinformation. Incidentally, suggestions for retention of “Clapper” in the names of the pseudo-daughter species, e.g., “California Clapper Rail,” are unacceptable for the same reason – even without a hyphen, insertion of “Clapper” into the compound names without also doing it for Aztec Rail and King Rail misleadingly signals a tighter relationship than exists. 

2. The cost in stability by changing eastern Clapper Rail to “Saltmarsh Rail” or whatever is enormous. This name has been associated with eastern Clappers since the dawn of English names, more than a century ago. Under-appreciated is that standardized NACC English names have a clientele that extends far beyond the few hundred professional ornithologists and taxonomy-savvy amateurs who care about the nuances of English names and taxonomy. Our broader clientele, likely several orders of magnitude more numerous, dislikes ANY change at all and is often baffled by the seemingly whimsical (in their view) name changes. These people are the predominant owners of the books and other literature that would immediately become obsolete if the name is changed. I read that there are something like 3 million copies of Peterson Eastern bird guides out there, and something like a half-million copies of Sibley. There must be roughly that many copies out there of the Robbins guide, the Nat Geo guides, and the other guides, in addition to who knows how many copies of many popular and reference books. Also, these birds are game birds in the Eastern USA (not California), so there is a fairly large literature out there, technical and popular, in the management world that represents a dimension we seldom think about that calls the eastern bird “Clapper Rail”. And so on. For all these printed copies of literature, millions of them, “Clapper Rail” will become obsolete for California birds no matter what. However, by retaining Clapper for the eastern one, which occurs in many more states and has a much larger population than the California birds, and which has ALWAYS had the name Clapper Rail, for more than 100 years, we can keep that printed literature from becoming obsolete, at least for eastern North America. In my opinion, that’s what we should do. A major goal of English names is to counteract the instability in scientific name changes generated by taxonomic changes, and by retaining Clapper for Eastern USA birds, that goal is achieved.

In contrast to eastern Clapper Rail, the name “Clapper” has not been so intimately associated with the California/W. Mexico birds. The California populations are often referred to with modifiers such as “California” (225,000 Google hits), “Yuma” (12,000 Google hits), or “Light-footed” (9,500 Google hits) anyway. Astute California field people have always been aware that “their” Clappers might not be ““real” Clappers, and often use those informal modifiers. Historically, Hellmayr & Conover’s (1942) influential classification did not consider them to be “Clappers” at all, but rather King Rails. So, for example, the CA coastal population was “California King Rail, R. elegans obsoletus“, and levipes was just “Light-footed Rail”, yumanensis was “Yuma King Rail”, and beldingi just “Belding’s Rail.”

Will there be some confusion? Yes, obviously. There will be confusion, however, no matter what. Those who really care about this stuff will handle it easily. Changing eastern Clapper Rail to something else would cause vast amounts of confusion. So will changing the California birds to something besides Clapper Rail. I think the ornithological world will survive.

At the purely subjective level, I might feel differently if Clapper Rail were a bad or insipid name for which a change in taxonomy would be a good excuse to purge. Although the same “Clapper” description could be applied to other members of the complex, it is definitely an above-average name in colorfully describing the voice of the species, albeit not uniquely.

Second, Problem B: “Ridgway’s Rail” vs. “California Rail” or something else:

Many people don’t like patronyms, and I understand the reasons for that view. However, I favor it in this case because (a) Ridgway described two of the subspecies, (b) the Maley-Brumfield paper already uses it, and (c) most of all, Ridgway of all people could use some more recognition in my opinion. He established the foundation of North American bird taxonomy, and his several huge, extraordinarily detailed volumes on our birds are valuable resources even today. In many cases, his taxonomy turned out to be more accurate than that of the generation of ornithologists who followed him. The only other “Ridgway’s Something” is Ridgway’s Hawk, B. ridgwayi, of Hispaniola, and there are no “Ridgway’s Somethings” in the USA or Canada. I could live with “California” even though much of the species range is beyond California given that one could interpret “California” to include Baja California and the general Gulf of California region to make it less gringo-centric.

2014-A-6: Split Guadalupe Junco Junco insularis from Dark-eyed Junco J. hyemalis

NO. 1 without comment.

NO. I think a more comprehensive total-junco study is needed.

YES. I wonder why the authors of the study did not perform playback trials, given that the authors’ fieldwork including extensive recording of insularis in the field? How much more effort would it have taken to do playback trials, so that we can assess whether the degree of song divergence they documented was meaningful? The degree of difference that they documented, nonetheless, convinces me that this population has diverged in vocalizations to the point that it should be treated as a separate species – those sonograms reveal that their songs are a jumbled mess of notes relative to the monotonous trills of the hyemalis group and even the less-monotonous trills of the phaeonotus group (which deserves species rank in my opinion). The authors have shown that the plumage characters used to treat insularis as a subspecies are not phylogenetically informative.

As for the genetic data, I disagree with the statement in the proposal that the decision must be based on the molecular data. As long as the group as a whole is monophyletic, what aspect of the genetic data would indicate taxon rank? We already know that insularis is going to be different genetically in many ways given its isolation, its tiny population, and its morphological and vocal divergence. How different does it have to be to be treated as a different species? There is no way to answer that question without using arbitrary evels of degree of genetic divergence, which is likely influenced dramatically by the orders of magnitude difference in effective population sizes among taxa.

I wish that more use were made of J. vulcani in a comparative framework in all the analyses. This taxon we already treat as a separate species, so its use would have permitted the “if, then” conditional “yardstick” comparisons that are useful on making conclusions on taxon rank in allopatric populations.

YES (with some hesitation). I am bothered by the molecular data set, which is based only on mtDNA from non-vouchered blood samples. Likewise, the morphologic data are based on measurements taken on live birds that were released after capture – precluding any replication of those data. I am also bothered by the lack of playback experiments, which would have been relatively easy to perform while the authors were conducting fieldwork on the island. Taken individually, these data sets would be insufficient to support recognition of this island form as a full species. However, together I think that the evidence (genetic distinctiveness, very different songs, morphologic divergence) supports this change – especially when comparing J. hyemalis and J. phaeonotus, which already are considered separate species.

YES. Those who have seen it and heard it say it’s very different.

YES. Given the distinct morphology, and very distinct song, coupled with the gentic differences, it seems it is best to consider insularis a separate species from hyemalis. This is especially true in comparing differences in these characters between hyemalis and insularis with those between hyemalis and phaeonotus, which we already consider species level. The morphology and song differences are at least as great between hyemalis and insularis as between hyemalis and phaeonotus; the genetic differences between hyemalis and insularis far surpass those between hyemalis and phaeonotus.

NO. The phylogenetic data seem to argue against this split. The phenotypic differences are typical of island forms.

YES. Keeping the species as a subspecies will obscure the true evolutionary significance of the long isolation, as reflected by genes and song.

YES. Although the morphological divergence may be typical of small-island forms, it’s still genetically- based divergence. In combination with song differentiation, I think the balance of evidence favors species status. However, I don’t think Guadalupe Junco is as distinctive morphologically as is Volcano Junco, which at least in the field appears strikingly distinct.

YESJunco insularis is shown to be much more distinct genetically, equally distinctive morphologically and somewhat more distinctive vocally as Junco phaeonotus (which we split and even Allan Phillips split) is from Junco hyemalis. To me, this looks like a clear split.

NO. Body size and learned song differences are to be expected in island populations of oscines, and the genetic data, while suggestive and a great start, are not sufficient to diagnose species limits in this allopatric population.

2014-A-7: Change the English names of Chlorospingus species from “Bush-Tanager” to “Chlorospingus” (SACC #579)

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. The proposal makes good arguments in support of this change, and we should be consistent with the SACC.

YES. But what about changing all Pirangas to something else? Folks will get used to it.

YES. Despite historical convention, there are advantages to being more clear about affinities by modifying English names. Since this group name would need to be modified at least slightly in any event, implementing this bigger change instead makes sense to me.

YES. They are not tanagers, and Chlorospingus depicts a very precise set of morphological/behavioral/ecological traits shared by most of the species.

YES. it’s already a well-known name, easily pronounced, and neatly resolves one of the many common name problems out there. (But please let’s not go too far down that route and change ours to Scarlet Piranga!)

YES. I agree with proposal and other commenters. It will be good to be in line with the SACC.

YES (weakly). In general, I am not enthusiastic about using generic names as the group name for species. Yes we have Vireos (although not all Vireos are in Vireo), Phainopepla, Euphonias and so forth, but the use of scientific names can also have the consequence of a common name reflecting a previous genus that is now gone (Pyrrhuloxia and Parula spring to mind). Also these names don’t give any new information about the bird since that name is also present in the scientific name. I think the proliferation of generic names as English name group names is an unfortunate trend. I am also inclined not to change pre-existing English names. I am voting for this change anyway, because I do see Bush-Tanager as problematic in several ways. They aren’t tanagers, they are not really associated with bushes (most are sub-canopy birds) and there is a another Bush-Tanager that is not closely related. The later issue is the most problematic. What should the orthography be if we leave Chlorospingus as Bush-Tanagers? Cnemoscopus would remain Bush-Tanager. Chlorospingus would become “Bush-tanager”  or “Bush tanager.” Since they are not really tanagers, according to our rules Tanager should not be capitalized. So we’d be using a ridiculously subtle distinction between upper and lower case tanager to demonstrate that this bird is not a tanager and not closely related to Cnemoscopus. If there were a reasonable alternative to Chlorospingus I would go for it, but as far I know Chlorospingus have always been Bush-Tanagers and changing these to something like “Bush-Sparrow” seems like a bad idea. So Chlorospingus it is.

2014-A-8: Divide Aratinga into four genera (SACC #578)

YES. 7 without comment.

YES. This is well-supported by multiple studies.

YES. Seems straightforward.

YES. This is well-supported by multiple studies. We will also need to include Nandayus (now Aratinganenday in the list of name changes.

YES. This seems straightforward.

2014-A-9: Lump Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha and R. terrisi into a single species

NO. 2 without comment.

NO. I agree with the proposal that further study is needed, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the single R. terrisi sample.

NO. This is radical. The breeding biology (for starters) between the two species is very different.

NO. I agree with the proposal that the origin of the terrisi sample is suspect. Furthermore, the lack of genetic distinctiveness does not preclude that reproductive isolation has arisen between pachyrhyncha and terrisi.

NO. The new data are insufficient to make this change.

NO. Morphology, ecology, and insufficient genetic data do not grant the lumping.

NO, not without confirmation of the terrisi sample identification and additional sampling and analyses.

NO. These data really do nothing one way or another to influence taxon rank, and without a formal voucher, we can’t even be sure that the samples are correctly identified.

NO. Even without the issue of whether the terrisi sample actually came from terrisi, I don’t find the genetic data compelling to make this lump. That being said, if these were treated as a single species, it would be hard to make a case for splitting them, so it does seem like more investigation of this species pair is warranted.

NO. Uncertain origins of the single terrisi sample notwithstanding, the data are insufficient for determination of species limits.

2014-A-10: Split Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis into three species

YES (option 3).

YES (option 1).

YES (option 1). The evidence supports this change, and it makes sense to be consistent with other authorities in recognizing a three-way split.

YES (option 1). It seems there is good evidence for the three way split regarding genetics, morphology and song, so I think choosing a two split because it is simpler or easier is not the right course. We will need more critical examination of the purported examinandus specimens before adding this species to the list.

What are the English names? The IOC has :
Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis
Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus
Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus xanthodryas

YES to one or another of the splitting options (option 1 or option 3). Since most of this complex is extralimital, I would support the option that is most consistent with the Old World authorities that have already dealt with this new information; from the proposal , I think they went with option 1 but am not absolutely certain. If so, option 1 has my support.

YES (option 1). The three species treatment seems adequate to me.

YES (Option 1). If accepted, we will need verification of the identity of the UAM specimens sensu Alstrom et al. (examinandus vs. xanthodryas) in order to prepare the appropriate new account.

YES (option 1). This seems to be well-established by the data presented by Alstrom et al.

YES. Good work on a tough group. There are still some things to work out, but I think Option 1 is supportable.

YES (option 1). Complicated, but I found the paper by Alstrom et al. (2011) to be very persuasive. There is no better basis for splitting xanthodryas than examinandus and I favor a three way split. There is no evidence for any of the Aleutian birds being kennicotti. California birds are unknown, although at least two were measured in-hand. There is no record by the way for Stanislaus County. The record comes from Santa Clara County, which did pass the CBRC.

YES. The song and call data in Alström et al. (2011) leave no doubt that these taxa should be treated as separate species. (This paper is outstanding, by the way.) They analyzed songs from 94 individuals and calls from 53 individuals from throughout the ranges. Quantitative analysis of the sonograms found three main groups, each very distinctive, and each mapping onto the three proposed species; our kennicottii groups with the widespread Palearctic borealis group. These are explained and discussed in detail in the paper. Call differences map nicely onto the song groups, and the differences, to me anyway, are even more impressive. These differences together convince me that three species should be recognized. The only missing pieces, the ones that would drive the nail in the coffin, are studies of the potential contact zones or playback trials, although the vocal differences are presumably the agent for maintaining the three mtDNA lineages and their morphological differences. Certainly, given the importance of vocalizations in species limits in sympatric and parapatric Phylloscopus, burden of proof falls on any other taxonomy besides three species.

Although the genetic data and the morphological data are biologically interesting, they provide no real help in evaluating species limits and are essentially ancillary. Many taxa ranked as species contain deeply divergent lineages and morphologically distinctive units, yet do not differ in the characters associated with species limits, such as vocalizations. At the other extreme, we have a growing number of cases in which genetic differences are weak or non-existent, in terms of the small number of loci that can be assayed, yet they are treated as separate species because the birds themselves show no sign of gene flow. The most recently published example of this is a paper by Campagna et al. on the South American capuchino seedeater complex. Therefore, even if there were no differences in mtDNA between the three Phylloscopus populations, then they should still be ranked as species.