2015-A-1: Revise the classification of the Pipridae (SACC #591)

YES. 3 without comment.

YES to all parts.

YES. I support all of the changes recommended in the proposal based on the genetic data and for congruence with the SACC.

YES, following SACC.

YES. I vote to accept Cryptopipo, change sequence as in B2, and create subfamilies. The data look good for all parts of this proposal. The final positions of atronitens + uniformis and flavicapilla + unicolor do not look set in stone, but they can’t change much with regard to other groups.

YES. For reasons given in the proposal.

YES. We previously made changes in Pipridae based on other molecular studies. However, those studies had incomplete taxon-sampling. It is encouraging that the Ohlson study does not conflict with those earlier studies, but rather just extends them.

YES. (A) Seems crystal clear that this is necessary. (B) I am fine with following Ohlson et al. 2013 on this with proposed modifications. (C) I agree with recognizing two subfamilies.

2015-A-2: Add Bicolored Wren Campylorhynchus griseus to the Main List

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. The evidence is strong for this addition.

YES. Photos are good and diagnostic.

YES. Published photos show dark back and wings of expected subspecies.

YES. Published photos.

YES. Published photos are obviously of this species.

YES. I appreciate the inclusion of photographs.

2015-A-3: Move Dusky Pigeon Patagioenas goodsoni from the Appendix to the Main List

YES. 5 without comment.

NO. 1 without comment.

YES. The evidence is strong for this addition. I hope that the video recordings are being archived in a repository where they will be accessible.

NO for now. Published photos are not particularly clear, although the right bird in photo 1 looks like it has a gray head, as does the bird in photos 2, but there are serious exposure issues in both photos. For some reason the left bird in photo 1 does not have a gray head (juvenile?), though the shape is the same (goodsoni is supposed to be short tailed). Sound recordings would be ideal and the proposal says that they video recorded, but with sound? If so, where will the videos be archived? I would like to wait to see the NAB paper.

YES. Published photos.

YES. I appreciate the inclusion of photographs.

2015-A-4: Revise the classification of the Psittaciformes (SACC #599)

YES. 2 without comment.

YES (reluctantly). Even though these birds have a long history (as do all birds), they still all seem to be Parrots.   

YES. I agree that we should be consistent with others in the classification of parrots.

YES. I’m not sure I followed all of this……but yes.

YES. For the sake of agreement with other classifications, I think we should accept the higher level taxonomy proposed here.

YES. There are several alternative Family-level classifications of the parrots being discussed in various circles, but conformity with SACC is a tie-breaker for me on this.

YES. For reasons given in the proposal.

YES. I am not thrilled to death about this, but seems like the way to go.

YES. I agree that there is no reason not to follow this growing consensus. The philosophy of having age guidelines for family-level taxa would likely cause an implosion of families in Passeriformes, which might not be a bad thing.

2015-A-5: Split Pterodroma heraldica and P. atrata from Herald Petrel P. arminjoniana

YES. 3 without comment.

YES. This is a complex situation, but the thorough proposal provides a good case. I am fine with the proposed English names.

YES. This is a well thought out motion by Alvaro and the split goes well with other recent seabird splits. In fact it’s probably more justified. I had no idea about the situation at Round Island in the Indian Ocean. I also favor Al’s suggestion of using Trindade Petrel for the English name of Pterodroma arminjonia.

YES. The hybridization on Round Island in the Indian Ocean has presented a tricky situation, especially considering the lack of hybridization elsewhere among some of these taxa. I agree with Jaramillo’s logical reasoning on why we should consider more or less neglecting what is happening there, and instead concentrate on the rest of the their distribution.  It thus makes sense to split Pterodroma heraldica and P. atrata from Herald Petrel P. arminjoniana. I also agree with his proposed English names: Herald Petrel, Henderson Petrel, and Trindade Petrel.

YES. This is a complicated and messy situation, but the proposed split seems to mesh the best with the available evidence. The assortative mating in sympatry is the strongest line of evidence here. This is a particularly well presented proposal on a difficult topic.

YES. A complex situation, but Jaramillo et al.’s taxonomic solution is the best match to current data. SACC adopted an analogous proposal (SACC #582) on this, with unanimous support.

YES. A mess, but I think the proposal makes a good case for this being the most useful approach to this group. I also concur with suggested English names.

YES. What a messy situation. The evidence for a lack of reproductive isolation in presumed recent secondary contact stands in stark contrast to evidence for reproductive isolation in regions where sympatry has existed for longer periods. The latter for me tips the scales into the positive.

2015-A-6: Transfer American Tree Sparrow Spizella arborea to Spizelloides

YES. 5 without comment.

YES. The evidence is strong for this change, and I agree that recognizing a monotypic genus seems like the best solution.

YES. The genetic evidence seems rock solid that the American Tree Sparrow is not closely related to the other Spizella, which are much more similar to one another than any is to arborea.

YES. Required to maintain monophyletic Spizella. Tree Sparrow was always regarded as the oddball in this genus, with its superficial resemblance to Field Sparrow obscuring the vocal and behavioral differences between it and the rest of Spizella. Nice to have the genetic evidence to excise this species from Spizella.

YES. But let’s leave the linear sequence for a future proposal based on more new evidence for the broader group, as long as we’ll be making extensive changes then anyway.

YES. While I have no field experience with Worthen’s Sparrow, Spizella wortheni, I find the rest of the Spizella all have similar contact notes and in particular flight calls. In fact I can’t even tell the difference between the flight calls of S. pallida from S. breweri. Even S. atrogularis with such a different appearance gives call notes, including flight calls, like other Spizella. The call notes of American Tree Sparrow are very different from any other Spizella, so the genetic distinctness does not surprise me. At least one of the calls is a musical doubled note, a “tseet-tseet.”

As for the linear sequence, I say leave it where it is, especially if more is soon on the way. Within Spizella it leads. I’m not enamored in placing it between Passerella and Zonotrichia. I find nothing about the habits and vocalizations of Passerella to be remotely suggestive of American Tree Sparrow. Placing it near Zonotrichia seems slightly less objectionable. But…I’m not sure if behavior, vocalizations, etc. count for much these days. Anyway, the suggestion of a relationship to Junco is interesting. I would often see American Tree Sparrows with juncos in the Midwest (central Ohio), but then there weren’t many other sparrows to choose from in mid-winter. More interesting from my perspective is that in California where American Tree Sparrow is rare, I have often found them with juncos and not with other sparrows which do abound, especially gambelii White-crowned Sparrows. I’ve not seen them with other Spizella species either, although most have left by the time American Tree Sparrows first arrive (late October, more by early November). And American Tree Sparrows do show a fair amount of whitish in those outer tail feathers…. So if to be moved now, I’d favor placing the newly erected genus between Zonotrichia and Junco.

Now that we have erected a new genus for a North American sparrow, I’ll just politely suggest again that Five-striped Sparrow, currently placed within Amphispiza, has no business there. Its behavior and all vocalizations bear no similarity to the other member of that genus, A. bilineata. It wouldn’t hurt to have one more montypic genus (or actually it would be two).

2015-A-7: Split Passerina pallidior from Painted Bunting P. ciris

NO. Other comments are very thorough and persuasive.

NO. The differences in molt and migration are interesting, but I agree with others that these taxa are best recognized as subspecies for now.

NO. I read through the proposal before I read other comments, and largely came to the same conclusions. The evidence presented does not show reproductive isolation between the two populations. The molt differences could surely lead to lower fitness of hybrids, but this has to be shown in at least one case before it can be used as a criterion to imply species level differences. Given that the morphological break between subspecies is different than the break between populations, a lot more field work is necessary to show reproductive isolation. I had no idea that Painted Buntings may be breeding in the large gap between the two populations. I am more and more impressed with the utility of eBird.

NO. The proposal is not very clear about the nature of the genetic differentiation described in the Herr et al. 2011 paper, which it cites as one of the main reasons for this split. I looked back at that reference and it is based only on ND2 mitochondrial data. The IM analysis in that paper suggests little current mitochondrial gene flow between the Atlantic and Gulf Coast populations and the haplotype network is clearly non-random, yet the most common (probably ancestral) ND2 haplotype is found in both populations, and there are various other connections in that network that have to result from either gene flow or very recent divergence. In other words, even in mtDNA these forms are not cleanly or highly differentiated. This seems to me to be an appropriate level of (weak, but real) differentiation to recognize at the subspecies but not species level.

NO. For reasons stated by others.

NO. I can easily accept the “not to split” vote.

NO. This seems to be completely based on DNA, and that doesn’t even seem to make a good case.

NO. These two taxa have all the hallmarks of being allopatric subspecies. Evidence does not suggest to me that they are divergent yet to the species level.

NO. The molt stuff is interesting as are the apparently distinct breeding and winter ranges, but can these two subspecies even be confidently identified in the hand, and their songs and call notes sound identical, at least to my ear. In terms of the breeding ranges, the distances between the two populations is likely far less than has been described. In logo-auk-aou.png” border=”0″ width=”240″ height=”146″ at the relatively new Georgia BBA, I see that the species breeds well away from the coastal plain in the southeast, the general haunt for nominate ciris. It breeds well up through the upper coastal plain, a few even into the piedmont of northern Georgia. And it breeds in southwestern Georgia, probably less than a 100 km away from populations in eastern Georgia (recently found east to Sumter County). In short, I doubt if anyone truly knows whether the two populations are really allopatric.

In terms of migration, I note from Stevenson and Anderson (1994), who by the way treat the species as monotypic, that there is only one tower casualty from the WCTV tower in Leon County (25 years of data), so perhaps indeed there is a gap in the migration between the two subspecies. I don’t think Painted Buntings are rare at Dauphin Island in coastal Alabama or from coastal Louisiana. Painted Buntings (presumably ciris) are very uncommon in the northern Bahamas and Cuba at any time, so most must winter in Florida.

As for the molt issue, there is a situation here in eastern California where we see regularly see small numbers of adult male Western Tanagers migrating south in July, even early July. These birds look worn and have red heads. These birds are seen well away from breeding sites at desert oases. I’m sure they are on their way to western Mexico and fit a trend of other  well- studied species (e.g. Black-headed Grosbeaks, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Lazuli Buntings) that flee the dry surroundings of California (yeah, really dry the last four years!) and head south to the monsoon region, the food rich areas of western Mexico. All well and good. But the interesting thing is that we also get some adult males passing through in September that are in fresh plumage with a yellow head (with dusky streaks) and fresh edges to the black dorsum feathers. These birds have undergone a complete molt. I’m left wondering where those birds nested, perhaps farther north in British Columbia, even perhaps a few from southeast Alaska where uncommon.  Maybe even within the same region, some flee south, some stay and molt. I don’t have the answers. My point is that while the molt differences are interesting and worthy of further investigation, along with other issues like carefully delineating the breeding ranges of ciris and pallidior, they don’t on their own argue for species recognition. There are probably environmental factors which cause ciris to stay and molt. They certainly have a shorter migration. 

NO. The rationale for the split is that the species occurs in two disjunct populations with different molt and migration strategies, and with no detectable gene flow between the populations.

First, when the BSC uses the term “reproductive isolation”, it is not referring to allopatric populations, but parapatric or sympatric ones in which gene flow is a physical impossibility. Thus, claims that the populations are “reproductively isolated” are invalid in the sense of BSC argumentation. (For example, White-tailed Ptarmigan populations in various alpine tundras are geographically isolated from each other and thus are in the practical sense reproductively isolated, yet no one ranks each mountain range’s population as separate species.)

Second, if allopatry alone were a sufficient criterion for species rank, then there would be literally hundreds of thousands of bird “species” (e.g., at least 7 species of W-t Ptarmigan in Colorado). Most species are in fact made up of a series of allopatric populations isolated by everything from slight habitat discontinuities to major gaps (as in the current pair of populations). I guarantee that if one were to look at the two populations’ ranges in detail, one would find numerous smaller gaps among populations. The “disjunct” vs. “continuous” dichotomy is really a false one – it all depends on the geographic scale, and falsely represents a continuum of variation.  Further, the gap between the subspecies’ ranges is likely overstated (not just in the proposal but in the supporting material). If you look at an eBird map from June and July, you can see a series of records from throughout the alleged gap from Mississippi to w. Georgia (copy to your own computer and zoom in to see this best).

I checked about half of these records, and 100% of those refer to singing males on territory. Obviously, that is not synonymous with breeding, but is nonetheless highly suspicious. It looks to me as if there are patches of likely breeders throughout the gaps in the narrow fingers of bottomlands and along the coast in otherwise hilly, unsuitable terrain. What population these represent in unknown. On the other hand, there is a sprinkling of June-July records north of the breeding range all the way to Canada, and a few of these are reported as being singing on territory, so perhaps the birds in the gap are also just wanderers (although some of them also report paired birds). Clearly this species is a good disperser, so if there is truly no gene flow, as the fairly large N in the sample suggests, this would actually support the hypothesis of true reproductive isolation.

Additionally, the geographic sampling in the original paper is a little weak in that it did not include samples from the geographically closest populations, where any gene flow, if it exists, would be most likely detected. The easternmost sample of the western population is a single locality from north-central Louisiana, and the westernmost sample of the eastern population is from coastal Georgia. So, the actual longitudinal gap in sampling localities is something like 1000 km, almost twice the stated gap between the populations.

Third, the proposal does not make it clear that one of the major findings in Herr et al. was that the subspecies distributions do not correspond to the two “allopatric” populations – the western population actually consists of nominate and “pallidior”. The genetic subdivision (mtDNA haplotypes) corresponds to the geographic break, not the subspecies break. The type locality for the nominate form is from South Carolina, so there is no problem in assigning the easternmost population to that name. However, the name “pallidior” would be assigned to the western population, which includes true “pallidior” plus birds from Texas and Louisiana that are traditionally assigned to the nominate form. I place “pallidior” in quotes because Thompson’s original paper on these birds pointed out that “pallidior” is not a diagnosable unit but rather represents clinal variation, although I haven’t gone back to check the data. The point of all this is that the proposed new species P. pallidior is not a phenotypically diagnosable unit and is this not even a PSC species unless one uses exclusive haplotypes or molting individuals.

The proposal, of course, does not rely solely on allopatry but combines this with differences in molt schedules and wintering ranges. The latter is not a criterion in itself for species rank, because we have many species in which there is no question concerning species limits that have disjunct wintering ranges. The issue of differences in timing of molt does indeed pose the intriguing question of whether this itself could be an isolating mechanism that would select against intermediate individuals. 

Nonetheless, I do not know of a single case in which timing of molt constrains gene flow between two parapatric populations. What we do know, empirically, is that parapatric populations of passerines between which gene flow is limited to the point that we rank them as species also show diagnostic differences in song and call notes, and as far as we know, such differences do not exist between the two subspecies populations.  In this case, the two populations are not diagnosable by plumage as far as anyone knows. Also, the estimates of divergence times (26,000–115,000 years bp) are very low in comparison to almost any taxa treated as species … if one uses divergence time as a metric (I don’t).

In summary, the Painted Bunting is a biologically fascinating case that in my view is best regarded as incipient speciation, and the two populations have not yet diverged to the degree associated with species rank. Analyses of vocalizations would be interesting, especially if accompanied by playback experiments. That the mtDNA groupings (a single locus, ND2) do not conform to subspecies boundaries is also of interest.

2015-A-8: Split Toxostoma arenicola from LeConte’s Thrasher T. lecontei

YES. 1 without comment.

NO. For reasons stated by others.

NO. This proposal does not provide a strong argument for separating these taxa as species. I think further study is needed to see if these taxa come into contact, and what happens if they do. It would also be nice to see data on vocal differences and responses to playback.

NO. A classic PSC split. I have no field experience with the west Baja subspecies, arenicola, but as usual with the genetic studies, there has been no effort to determine if there is anything else distinctive about this allopatric population (namely vocalizations, and especially contact notes). Until there is some study detailing differences, this population is best regarded as a subspecies. I carefully read Jay M. Sheppard’s BNA account (1996) and he provides no basis for a consideration of a species split. And as he details in his account there is a distinct break between San Joaquin Valley birds (those that are left) , so called macmillanorum, and those from the western Mojave Desert. Apart from the genetic studies, we are left with something slightly darker and with a shorter tail for arenicola.  Anything else?

As an aside I’ve always considered LeConte’s and Crissal Thrashers to be sister species, as their songs (and even calls) are similar and they readily respond to play-back of each other’s vocalizations.

NO. The proposal claims that genetic distance of 3.5 % shows reproductive isolation. This is certainly not the case, as it just shows that the populations have been separated for a long time, not that reproductive isolating mechanisms have evolved. In addition, MtDNA can greatly skew the results, and it would be helpful to see if nuclear markers confirm this large genetic distance. The colormetric analyses showed lots of overlap, and it seems that plumage of these populations differs by what would be expected in subspecies in arid climates. No vocal analyses at all.

NO (weakly). This situation is in the grey zone with no really compelling evidence either direction. There is no new information available, just an older Zink et al. paper reporting modest (3.5% cytb) mtDNA divergence, and entirely allopatric populations that differ slightly in plumage and possibly in habitat use.

NO. There might be more to this than the bunting case, but still does not qualify as sufficient evidence to support two buiological species.

NO. These two taxa have all the hallmarks of being allopatric subspecies. Evidence does not suggest to me that they are divergent yet to the species level. Together with the previous proposal (2015-7), the question is not whether they are different, but how great are these differences relative to close relatives that exhibit reproductive isolation in sympatry. The bar is of course lower for phylogenetic species, which often equate to subspecies under the BSC.

NO. The proposal concludes with the statement “Thus, these 2 allopatric populations differ in range, appearance, habitat and genetics, and deserve full species status.” This represents application of a different species concept, perhaps best fitting the Evolutionary Species Concept, than the one we use (BSC). We have perhaps hundreds of taxa in the NACC area currently ranked as subspecies that fit the definition above. In fact, all valid subspecies MUST fit 3 of those 4 criteria or they should not be considered valid taxa. The first two are required, and the fourth (genetics) is assumed if appearance differs diagnosably and has a genetic (not environmental) basis. I suspect that almost all valid subspecies also have some degree of habitat difference among them just because they are allopatric. The genetic distance between (3.5% sequence divergence) is stated as “well within the range of differences between related established species.” However, that value is also well within the range of established subspecies and even non-diagnosable populations in sedentary birds (which this species is).

Also note that the genetic data in the original paper was based on a total of only 14 specimens from 6 localities. (These birds are difficult to collect and are not common.) However, in contrast to the parallel Curve-billed Thrasher study and proposal, the sampling design included localities reasonably close to any potential contact zone. Arenicola is restricted to the Pacific coast of southwestern Baja, and nominate lecontei extends down the Gulf of California side of Baja to almost the same latitude as arenicola on the opposite coast. Zink et al. (1997) pointed out that Jay Sheppard said that there is potential contact at Laguna Chapala. If these two taxa maintain their degree of divergence and actually are in contact, then they have to be separate species. Although Zink mentioned in his 1997 paper that arenicola responded vigorously to playback of songs from Kern County birds, I think it would be worthwhile investigating these taxa in greater detail.

As an aside, speaking of Kern County, the subspecies macmillanorum that Phillips described from there was considered invalid by Zink et al. because, in part, it was not diagnosable in their rigorous colorimetric analysis. However, the lack of diagnosability, as far as I can tell, was with respect to distant arenicola, not adjacent nominate birds, and this was proposed as a case of convergent evolution at opposite ends of the range under Gloger’s Rule by Zink et al. Therefore, I think isolated macmillanorum merits subspecies rank.

2015-A-9: Correct the scientific names of (a) Leptotila cassini and (b) Amazilia saucerrottei

YES. 7 without comment.

YES. No choice.

YES. Nice to get this straightened out by going to the ODs. Too bad no one did this in the last century.

YES. Nice, succinct, and well-supported reasoning.

2015-A-10: Split Laysan Honeycreeper from Apapane Himatione sanguinea and change its specific epithet to fraithii

YES. 3 without comment.

YES. I agree with both split and name.

YES. However I am puzzled by the specific epithet. Seems like this is similar to the saucerrottei case above, that the original spelling is incorrect given that the bird was being named for Freeth. Why is the logic on the spelling of this name different?

YES (both proposals).

YES. The proposal makes a convincing case for both the split and the name.

YES to the split and no doubt overdue. Too bad it is extinct as with so many of the other land birds from the Hawaiian chain. Yes to the change of the specific epithet is they have followed the code correctly, and yes to the English name of Laysan Honeycreeper. In general I favor fewer, not more, Hawaiian names. 

YES. As the authors of the proposal state, I agree that the evidence is overwhelming to consider these separate species. I agree with their rationale for the current English name. The original scientific name fraithiishould be restored, following the Code, and the steps taken in proposal 2015-A-9.

YES. It’s a shame that this distinctive form’s taxon rank was changed by Amadon with only the following rationale: “The Laysan race is similar to H. s. sanguinea but a rosier, lighter red. This is in part the result of the fading and bleaching evident in all the land birds of this exposed atoll. The bill is shorter than in the nominate race.”  Amadon went on to note the terrestrial foraging behavior described by Fisher but dismissed it as follows: “Walking rather than hopping progression may be acquired readily in species with terrestrial habits. Examples  can be found in the Parulidae (Seiurus), Fringillidae (CalcariusParoaria), Corvidae, and other families.It is rarely of phylogenetic significance.” What he did not point out is that these examples are generic-level differences, not subspecies-level differences. For this and the other reasons pointed out by Pratt, this taxon should never have been treated as anything other than a separate, distinctive species, restoration of species rank is well supported, and it is no wonder that Olson and James treated it as a full species without comment.

As for the species name, the Code seems clear in this case, so I vote YES pending further comment by others.

2015-A-11a: Split Newell’s Shearwater Puffinus newelli from Townsend’s Shearwater P. auricularis

YES. 3 without comment.

YES (about time).

YES. The proposal makes a convincing case for this split based on phylogenetic data and differences in multiple traits that are likely to be reproductively isolating.

YES. A well thought out motion and well in line with other recent seabird splits. 

YES. I agree with the authors of the proposal, that this species houdl be split from P. auricularis. Foremost, these taxa are not closely related. Furthermore they differ in several key factors (plumage, habitat, timing of breeding), that would be likely to be reproductively isolating. Somewhat analogous to the our recent split of Hawaiian and Galapagos Petrels.

YES. Overdue, and required by the genetic data alone, although the wealth of other differences, as outlined in the proposal, would also be sufficient for species rank in a comparative context in Puffinus shearwaters.

YES. This seems overdue given all the recent splits in this complex. The fact that it is not really aManx type shearwater makes this an easy change.

YES. Given morphological differences and molecular data showing lack of a close relationship, this split is warranted.

2015-A-11b: Consider Rapa Shearwater P. myrtae as a species separate from P. newelli

YES. 3 without comment.

YES. I vote to recognize myrtae as a species.

YES. I feel that P. newelli should be treated as its own monotypic species. What P. myrtae exactly what is, is another question that we don’t need to address. I happen to feel that lumping it with P. newelli , despite the genetic similarities, is a more egregious. I have no field experience with P. myrtae, nor for that matter with either P. newelli or P. auricularis, but lots of shearwaters within the older definition of Manx Shearwater complex show white coming up on the sides of the rump, even Black-vented, P. opisthomelas. That character has little influence on me one way or the other. It is widely agreed that P. newelli shows significant movements unlike P. auricularis and apparently (as far as known) P. myrtae. 

YES. Consider myrtae as separate from newelli and include a statement in the notes reflecting the taxonomic uncertainty regarding myrtae.

YES. Although I support the Newell’s/Townsend’s split, we have NO BUSINESS WHATSOEVER doing anything with distantly extralimital, poorly known myrtae other than to footnote it that genetic data suggest relation to Newell’s and that its taxonomic rank is unresolved.

We should at least tacitly consider myrtae as separate from newelli (= distribution statement confined to distribution of newelli) and include a statement in the notes reflecting the taxonomic uncertainty regarding myrtae.  

2015-A-12: Correct the citation for Pterodroma solandri

YES. 9 without comment.

YES. Evidence seems overwhelming for the minor changes in citation and type locality.