2018-A-1: Transfer Japanese Bush-Warbler from Cettia to Horornis

YES. 3 without comment.

YES. While there are some uncertainties in this paper, this level of difference seems well supported. (The proposal is in error: the dataset was one mtDNA and three nuDNA loci.)

YES. Seems non-controversial.

YES. This is obviously necessary and is overdue.

YES. Phylogenetic position requires this taxonomic change.

YES. The most recent phylogenetic data require this change. Many thanks to Joe Morlan for putting together this convincing proposal.

YES. This change is well-supported by the phylogenetic data.

YES. The phylogeny requires the change.

2018-A-2: Elevate Automolus ochrolaemus exsertus to species rank

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. The English name Chiriqui Foliage-gleaner seems perfectly appropriate. I like English names that detail geographic range.

YES. The combination of strong genetic (mtDNA) divergence plus vocal discrimination as evidenced by playback responses is convincing. Chiriqui Foliage-gleaner seems like a good name to me.

YES. Rare to have this level of experimental song playback evidence on top of substantial mtDNA divergence.

YES. Playback evidence as well as DNA evidence both provide support for separate species status.

YES. In the absence of sympatric taxa, we do not have better tests than using playback response to assess species limits. Of course, these tests could be more complete, but the types of reciprocal tests used in this study, coupled with what we already know of genetic and plumage differences, are good enough in my view, particularly in suboscines. 

YES. Discrimination in playback trials usually correlates with assortative mating and absence of free gene flow, and so I interpret these data as showing that these two taxa have differentiated to the point associated with barriers to gene flow between parapatric/sympatric species. No one who does playback trials thinks that this is directly equivalent to mate choice, but rather that it is an index of potential gene flow if the two were in contact based, empirically, on many examples that go both ways, i.e. taxa that do not mate assortatively show strong playback responses, and those that do mate assortatively show low levels of response. All of this is discussed in detail in various papers using playback trials. In the imperfect world of assigning taxon rank to allotaxa, use of playback trials is one of the stronger tools we have, for better or worse. Much of our current taxonomy is based on playback trials or degree of divergence in vocal characters. That professional and amateur ornithologists worldwide use tape playback to find particular species provides testimony to the common sense behind interpretation of playback as a determinant of taxon rank. Of course, in a perfect world we would wait for comparable data between other taxa in the ochrolaemus complex, but without a guarantee that such a project is underway, I favor endorsing this split now. Perhaps this will catalyze work on other members of the group.

There seems to be confusion in terms of what the proposal actually proposes. As in the Recommendation, the allopatric population of the Chiriquí lowlands is proposed as a separate species, A. exsertus (Chiriqui Foliage-gleaner) from all other populations of A. ochrolaemus. As for the question on whether they are truly allopatric, I assumed that this is the case because these birds don’t get higher than 1400 m, but I have confirmed that they are allopatric as far as is known. The reason hypophaeus remains associated with A. ochrolaemus s.l. is that it is parapatric with other subspecies treated within A. ochrolaemus; these form a nearly contiguous set of 3 subspecies that extend from SE Mexico through Panama across N Colombia. Then, there is a gap between those populations and the 3 subspecies east of the Andes in Amazonia, and that’s where a big change occurs in song. That the song of hypophaeus may or may not be closer to nominate ochrolaemus or other subspecies is a separate issue that should be addressed in future research. As Cadena and Cuervo have shown with Arremon brush-finches in the Andes, geographic patterns in song variation can show a leapfrog pattern, so comparisons of these two Costa Rican taxa to the rest of the complex must be done comprehensively.

YES. The results of the playback study suggest that exsertus and hypophaeus are different species, and the high genetic divergence between these taxa supports that. I initially had two reservations: (1) it was not clear if the two taxa in question occur on adjacent Pacific and Caribbean slopes of the same mountains, and if so whether strong song discrimination occurs between these adjacent populations, but we’ve been assured that they are indeed allopatric; and (2) it was unclear why hypophaeus would be retained within ochrolaemus rather than with exsertus, given that there are stronger vocal differences between Amazonian and Middle American populations than among exsertus and hypophaeus, but the relationships between Middle American and Amazonian taxa is a separate issue that needs to be considered by SACC. Addressing the situation in Costa Rica is only a first step within this complex.

NO. I find the reasoning to be very oversimplified. Territorial responses are a poor proxy for mate choice (and EPC) and ignore both the non-vocal displays involved and the important factor of female choice. The authors are correct in examining frequencies, but the proportions responding here, if they resulted in gene flow, would represent too high a rate (14% – hardly “essentially ignore”) for biological species.

NO. Right now I don’t think we really have a clear sense of whether exsertus or hypophaeus most properly belongs with the nominate group from Amazonia, or maybe more likely that neither belong with ochrolaemus. This strikes me as perhaps similar to the Schiffornis turdinus complex, where we knew that vocally there were more than 1 type, but it took a several papers and a few years to make sense of the groups. It seems very unlikely to me that the other trans-Andean forms of the ochrolaemus complex belong with the cis-Andean taxa.

2018-A-3: Transfer Geothlypis aequinoctialis chiriquensis from Masked Yellowthroat G. aequinoctialis to Olive-crowned Yellowthroat G. semiflava

YES. The data presented in the proposal seem compelling.

YES. This change seems to be well-supported by a combination of genetic (mtDNA), plumage, and behavioral traits (including song characteristics and responses to playback experiments).

YES. Playback, DNA, and geography all indicate this change.

YES. Geographic proximity + mtDNA pattern + song discrimination evidence is collectively convincing.

YES. Evidence presented is convincing, and subspecies rank is indicated by the playback trials. The genetic data may be mtDNA-only, but the results are consistent with the vocal data. Note that in Escalante et al. (2009), true aequinoctialis is distant from G. semiflava and G. “a.” chiriquensis in the tree, and that our Common Yellowthroat is closer to semiflava + chiriquensis than either is to aequinoctialis. In the face of this evidence, even limited as it is, maintaining chiriquensis as a subspecies of aequinoctialis cannot be supported.

YES. The lack of genetic difference and vocalizations, especially the response from play-back, are convincing. Separating members from this genus based on minor plumage differences is obviously a minefield, just look at the geographic variation with our own G. trichas.

YES. The head pattern appears at least as different between chiriquensis and semiflava as it does in some other yellowthroat taxa currently considered separate species, but the playback experiments and near absence of mtDNA divergence strongly suggest conspecificity of these two.

YES. Even though “only” mtDNA was used to infer a genetic relationship between chiriquensis and semiflava, the level of divergence is beyond what would be expected if the mtDNA were giving results incongruous with the real evolutionary history. I think that mtDNA is less appropriate to use with inferring species limits  in more closely related taxa, especially those with histories of rampant hybridization (e.g., gulls and probably wagtails). The mtDNA results couples with the vocal data argue persuasively that chiriquensis does not belong with aequinoctialis, and at this time is best treated as conspecific with semiflava.

YES, but somewhat reluctantly. I think the proposal is probably correct in its interpretation, but the evidence is somewhat weak. From a genetic standpoint, my concern is not that nuclear genes are not sampled, but rather that only a single individual is sampled. In a genetic study of many similar populations such as this, the possibility of a contaminated sequence to produce this pattern is non-trivial…a cross-contaminated sample with just a few mis-called basepairs in the sequence has the potential to move around this phylogeny quite a bit because every sequence will get placed somewhere. I suppose that the independent support from multiple mtDNA genes makes this less likely (or even very unlikely?), but I’d still feel better if multiple alleles were sampled.

As far as the playback experiment, I’m left feeling curious about the degree to which any, or at least some, Geothlypis yellowthroat species would respond strongly to a “yellowthroaty” song even if it wasn’t quite right. The males of most Geothlypis yellowthroats tend to be rather excitable, aggressive beasts (i.e., they rank high on the list of birds that are easily excited by “spishing”), so I’m not convinced that this experiment means much for mate choice. Overall, I am more convinced of the conclusions that can be drawn from playback experiments in cases where allopatric populations discriminate against one another but do not discriminate against a sympatric control population (i.e., splits such as the Automolus proposal in this set) than cases in which strong responses are elicited to every tested population (i.e., lumps), given that males should cast a broader net in their territory defense than females do in mate selection. In fact, Freeman and Montgomery 2017 discuss this point in the Auk paper, which is why their paper is focused on splitting taxa with high discrimination (because it is a conservative metric of species recognition), rather than the opposite.

NO. More genetic data are needed than mtDNA. The playback data are intriguing.

2018-A-4: Lump Cherrie’s Tanager Ramphocelus costaricensis with Passerini’s Tanager R. passerinii

YES. I am on the fence on this one but was skeptical of mtDNA-based split and the playback experiments suggest subspecies status is better.

YES. The evidence from playback and other areas is consistent with species status. Incidentally, I have sound-recorded both on numerous occasions, and to me they sound much the same. These have never struck me in the field as strongly differentiated species.

YES. I have the sense that lumps are much harder sells than splits … but I am sure if the two were currently considered conspecific and this mtDNA and playback evidence was presented in the context of a proposed split, it would be resoundingly voted down!

YES. The combination of male plumage similarity, song similarity, and responses to playback experiments – along with their relatively low mtDNA divergence – provide convincing evidence that these should be considered conspecific. A proposal to split these taxa based only on mtDNA would not pass today.

YES. Given the playback results and our definition of species, they can be lumped again.

YES. The original split was done when mtDNA results was a fairly new method, and the Committee was not as aware of the pitfalls of using this marker for assessing species limits. Playback experiments suggest subspecies status is better, as does the near identical plumage of adult males.

YES. The strong response to play-back is pretty indicative to me, and is a good reminder that genetic studies that suggest a split should be supported by other evidence, such as play-back experiments of their vocalizations.

YES. I’m voting yes on the basis of overall similarity in phenotype as opposed to the playback experiments. My concerns about interpreting a lack of song discrimination that I mentioned in proposal 3 (Geothlypis), also apply here.

YES. The original split was based on a now-antiquated assessment of the significance of genetic differentiation. The evidence from the playback trials also strongly suggests subspecies rank. Finally, the knockout punch for species rank in these two comes from a contact zone between two subspecies of closely related Ramphocelus flammigerus: the subspecies icteronotus differs from nominate flammigerus not only in female plumage but also in male plumage, yet they intergrade completely (evidently) at their contact zone in Colombia. Also, the pattern of similar male vs. differently plumaged females is also present in subspecies of Ramphocelus carbo.

YES. These are convincing data for lumping two taxa that did not seem to have much evidence supporting a split. Once again the time since divergence alone seemed to have driven the split. One question I have is what do we use as the English name for the relumped taxon Ramphocelus passerinii. I think this is a case where holding onto the English name Passerini’s Tanager, with the lump would definitely be confusing. I think that this was formerly known as Scarlet-rumped Tanager (currently used by HBW for the narrow passerinii), so presumably we would use that again for the broad passerinii.

2018-A-5: Change the English name of Rock Pigeon Columba livia back to Rock Dove

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. Unfortunately this is unavoidable under guidelines in wide use. The only other option would be dropping the group names for the two Petrophassa species, which presumably isn’t in the cards.

YES. The main issue for me is what the British do with this native Old World species. The BOU, at least as of April 2017, call it Rock Dove. It took me years to use the English name of Rock Pigeon, rather than Rock Dove, now I have to relearn! And the British would call our birds and there many variants Domestic Pigeons, rather than the few wild Rock Doves on cliffs. I guess we have some of those colonies too. Investigating this issue has never been a high priority. Anyway, if possible, use the English name where the species is found in its native range.

YES. Required by SOP for English names, and a return to a previous name for the species (thus minimizing the instability; concocting a new name for a native Eurasian species should not receive consideration).

NO. Species in Columba are pigeons. Species of Rock-Pigeon will always be easily differentiated by the precious hyphen.

NO. In this case – which involves North America’s most recognized bird, at a time when people are finally getting used to the first name change — I think common usage outweighs a minor nomenclatural inconsistency.

NO. I recognize that we should change Rock Pigeon because of the existence of the group name Rock-Pigeon for the genus Petrophassa. If I remember correctly, somebody pointed out this problem when we switched to Rock Pigeon for Columba livia. The problem with Rock Dove is that in the vernacular Columbia livia is the classic “pigeon” including such things as carrier pigeons and racing pigeons among them. I really think our English name needs to recognize this reality. My suggestion would be Common Pigeon, which one currently sees listed as an alternate name for this species in many listings.

NO. Although the rules may require a change, this is exactly the type of back-and-forth change that frustrates many users of the checklist. I’m willing to overlook this inconsistency or alternatively I like the suggestion of Common Pigeon.

NO. I understand the rationale in this proposal, but agree with others who argue for retaining ‘pigeon’ for this species.


2018-A-6: Treat extralimital Elaenia brachyptera as a separate species from Lesser Elaenia E. chiriquensis

YES. 1 without comment.

YES, following SACC. Appears well-justified.

YES. No reason to differ from the SACC.

YES. I support this change given the available evidence and the decision reached by SACC.

YES. Follow the SACC.

YES. We should follow the SACC for ‘their’ birds, and vice versa, unless there is a very compelling reason to do otherwise.

YES. This split is supported by both genetic and vocal data. There is no reason not to follow the SACC.

YES. I think the genetic plus vocal data in this complex are sufficient.

YES. I agree that the genetic and vocal data are sufficient and I see no reason not to follow the SACC.

YES. Minor issue for us, but evidence for this split is good.

2018-A-7: Treat extralimital Henicorhina anachoreta as a separate species from Gray-breasted Wood-Wren H. leucophrys

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. Lack of gene flow in parapatry, together with the phenotypic evidence, is quite good.

YES. Follow the SACC.

YES. Parapatry without gene flow is as good as it gets for species rank.

YES. Follows SACC and the data seem clear.

YES. Lack of gene flow in parapatry, together with the phenotypic evidence, strongy indicates that these are different species.

YES. Evidence for reproductive isolation of these parapatric taxa is supported by a combination of phenotypic, genetic, vocal, and behavioral data. There is no reason not to follow the SACC.

YES, following SACC. The existence of an unrecognized species at high elevations in the Santa Marta Mts. has been known informally at least for some years.

YES. We should follow the SACC for ‘their’ birds, and vice versa, unless there is a very compelling reason to do otherwise.

YES. I support this change given the available evidence and the decision reached by SACC.

2018-A-8: (a) Split extralimital Mitrephanes olivaceus from Tufted Flycatcher M. phaeocercus; (b) Split extralimital Fluvicola albiventer from Pied Water-Tyrant F. pica; (c) Adopt new English names

YES to both (a) and (b). (c) Follow the SACC on English names.

YES to (a) and (b). (c) Let’s use the SACC names so that our taxonomies are consistent.

YES to (a) and (b). (c) YES to English names following those already used by the SACC.

YES to (a) and (b). (c). I think that we should use SACC names of Tufted Flycatcher and Olive Flycatcher for the 2 species of Mitrephanes. The hyphenated names are unwieldy, and I can’t really see that the amount of information gained in creating the group name Tufted-Flycatcher for 2 species is worth it. 

YES to (a) and (b). (c) Stick with AOS’s SACC English names for Mitrephanes. They are also in widespread use (Clements, HBW) and avoid the hyphenated names that most people dislike. Further, note that in the IOC or other de-hyphenating naming schemes, “Olive Tufted Flycatcher” becomes humorously ambiguous, not to mention “olive tufted flycatcher”, as it will be rendered in non-ornithological texts. As for the non-specific “Olive Flycatcher”, the same could be said of dozens of tyrannid English names, including our own Least, Dusky, Gray, Yellow-bellied, Dusky-capped, Ash-throated, Brown-crested, Sulphur-bellied, and Olive-sided, as well as dozens of Neotropical species, such as Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Yellowish Flycatcher, Black-billed Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Gray-capped Flycatcher, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, etc.  Creating a diagnostic name by forcing an ugly compound name is unnecessary. Ornithology seems to be able to survive nonspecific flycatcher names.

YES to (a) and (b). (c) I think we should follow SACC for the English names, as they are simple and descriptive. English names hardly ever indicate sister relationships, nor do they need to. Within the Tyrannidae, it’s already mostly impossible to assign a species to genus based only on its English name, so I don’t see a need to enforce that here.

YES to (a) and (b). (c) I prefer Northern Tufted Flycatcher as it well fits the distribution from the more southern taxon.

YES to (a) and (b), following SACC. On (c), I gather the only contentious one is Mitrephanes, for which I prefer using Northern and Olive Tufted-Flycatcher. Olive Flycatcher is just too non-specific.

YES to (a) and (b). I see no reason not to follow the SACC on the split. (c) I would rather not keep one of the split taxa as “Tufted Flycatcher,” although I do not have a problem with Olive Flycatcher (as long as there are no other taxa with that name). Unless we can come up with a new name for phaeocercus (ss), I think it is best to use Olive Tufted-Flycatcher rather than Northern Tufted-Flycatcher.

YES to (a) and (b). (c) Abstain.

2018-A-9: Split Luscinia to recognize (a) Larvivora, (b) Calliope, and (c) Cyanecula

YES to (a), (b), and (c) – 4 without comment.

YES to (a), (b), and (c). Bluethroat is quite different in plumage from other nearby taxa on the tree, and its genetic distinctiveness indicates that a monophyletic genus is appropriate.

YES to (a), (b), and (c). The phylogeny of the group revealed by DNA sequence data requires these taxonomic changes.

YES to (a), (b), and (c). There needs to be reassignment of most of Luscinia. This treatment is consistent with the tree and means we don’t have to consider changing the names of other taxa not currently placed in Luscinia.

YES to (a), (b), and (c). Regarding Luscinia svecica the males have a brief (early breeding season), but spectacular flight-song display with birds traveling a wide area with wings spread (soaring) and an out-pouring of song. I’m not aware of that with the two Nightingale species. The only White-bellied Redstarts I’ve seen have been skulking and don’t remind me of Bluethroats. Bluethroat shows distinct sexual and seasonal dimorphism, unlike the Nightingale species. I think of them as quite different, so if there is a basis (which there is) I prefer taking it out of Luscinia. I’m a bit surprised about Luscinia obscura, the Blackthroat, a species I’ve never seen nor know little about, but it’s always portrayed as looking similar in shape and female coloration to Luscinia cyane, the Siberian Blue Robin. 

YES to (a) – Larvivora with sibilans and cyane. However, given the deep divergence within Larvivora and the overall dissimilarity of cyane and brunnea with akahigekomadori, and sibilans, I would have preferred to resurrect Icoturus, but this seems to be a non-starter since no one else has adopted that treatment. (b) YES to Calliope for calliope. (c) I prefer Cyanecula for svecica, given its great difference in plumage and deep divergence, as is also true of Hodgsonius. (Note typo a couple of times of Hodgsonicus for Hodgsonius in the proposal.)

YES to (a) and (b). (c) NOLuscinia has been a trash-can genus, and Tarsiger and Calliope (without pectardens) have decent support in the Sangster et al. (2010) tree. Larvivora looks really weak to me genetically, but “our” taxa are not part of a narrower Luscinia and we don’t have to wrestle with generic limits for the whole genus (Larvivora), so I’m okay using this scheme for now. Cyanecula I don’t like because it erects yet another monotypic genus in a small clade (good case for here to retain a broader Luscinia and not have more monotypic genera until some of the weaker nodes are sorted out and a convincing morphological case is made).

2018-A-10: Transfer Lesser Whitethroat from Sylvia to Curruca

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. The divergence is very deep between the Sylvia and Curruca clades. Given that curruca is the type species of Curruca, we are on safe ground in the event that other generic splits (e.g. nana and the communis group) are enacted in other treatments based on subsequent analyses, so I don’t see a strong reason to wait.

NO, for reasons given in the proposal.

NO. This is an accidental species in our region and we should therefore wait for the taxonomy to stabilize.

NO. I agree with the points in the proposal. I don’t think we should be at the forefront of recognizing Curruca when so few taxa in this clade occur in North America.

NO. I agree that waiting for a more comprehensive revision is best.

NO. The topology of the tree does not require this change. In addition, our area only includes ones of these species and other more global classifications have not adopted this change.

NO. For two reasons: mtDNA intrageneric trees are not reliable (see two in-press papers on Motacilla in MPE). Second, I don’t like making up genera based only on genetic clades. This genus probably does need to be split, but let’s wait for a more robust dataset and some morphological justifications to make sure it’s right.

NO. Comments by another committee member suggested that this change was required by the phylogenetic tree. Maybe I don’t quite understand this, but it doesn’t look to me like this is true. It looks like we can continue to recognize S. curruca as part of a big, heterogeneous Sylvia rather than a big heterogeneous Curruca. Unless I am misreading the tree and evidence, I can’t see making this split without something other than the deep split driving this change.

NO. Although the phylogeny of the group revealed by DNA sequence data reveals two deeply divergent lineages in this species-rich genus, estimated at 20 MY, I think we should wait for better time-calibrated phylogenies that include a broader array of sylvioids before making this change. Further, I think we should wait until this Old World issue is broadly adapted by other authorities – it’s out of our hemisphere, literally. As noted in the proposal, Old-World-based HBW maintains a broad Sylvia.