2019-A-1: Split Northern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis into two species

YES. Given the structural differences and distinctive plumage features I give a weak yes. The fact that the ranges of the two subspecies are separated by several thousand miles (Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land for glacialis and Bering Sea islands for rodgersii), any contact on the breeding grounds between these two subspecies is perhaps unlikely at this time, so this is a judgment call and I would favor a split.

NO. 1 without comment.

NO. After reading the proposal I was leaning toward the split, especially given these “new” criteria for separating Atlantic and Pacific populations. I then looked through Howell (2012) and then through a lot of fulmar photos on eBird to see how well the Howell distinctions of tail darker than upper tail coverts and pinker bill held up. It is easy to find examples of Pacific fulmars with concolorous tails or even light tails. Bill color was predictably variable, some may have been somewhat pinker (especially at the tip), but most looked identical to Atlantic. The quite different color morphs and proportions are interesting, but undermine the case for a split, as it seems that fulmars really do not care about plumage coloration in choosing a mate. I doubt that a slightly darker tail would result in reproductively isolation when totally dark morphs would equally choose nearly white morphs as dark morphs. In the end, this split really is pretty based on bar-code (mtDNA) results, which makes me less than thrilled.

NO, with reservations. Range maps show the fulmars as being broadly separated by northern Canada and North America, much as with Horned and Atlantic Puffins, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they had speciated in isolation, as suggested by the mtDNA divergence. However, the morphological differences outlined in the proposal do not seem very consistent based on eBird photos I checked. Bill color is often more grayish basally in Atlantic birds, but both have a pinkish/orangish tip, and some appear just the opposite of the rather vague and imprecise statements in the proposal. I cannot discern the uppertail covert/tail contrast issue at all from these photos. The proposal states that vocalizations and nuptial displays have not been shown to differ, but does not actually analyze them or provide any evidence that they don’t differ, so in that respect I think it would have been easy to improve the proposal by study of recordings and video.

NO. We expect mtDNA divergence in allopatric populations, so this result is not surprising. Most of the reasoning here is based on using mtDNA to infer species limits. I am uncomfortable raising them above subspecies at this time. With continued losses of sea ice, we may soon see what happens on secondary contact.

NO. These two populations of fulmars may possibly be biological species, but we don’t have convincing evidence yet on whether they have diverged to the point of reproductive isolation. It would be great to see a quantitative analysis (e.g., discriminant function) of the phenotype differences using to corroborate the statement that “most birds can be assigned morphologically to either the Atlantic or Pacific population.” This case could also benefit from next-generation sequencing given the results from nuclear markers presented in the proposal. Likewise, some quantitative evidence for behavioral differences (voice, nuptial displays) would strengthen the case for a split. I am comfortable with keeping these as subspecies for now.

NO. There is sufficient sampling within both populations, and a pattern of reciprocal monophyly in mtDNA is clearly shown. Thus, the level of mtDNA divergence between these two species indicates they have along history of isolation. The pattern detected from the nuclear markers is what would be expected in a case like this. I would be more comfortably splitting these two if we had some additional support from morphological characters and/or genomic markers. Although some morphological characters are highlighted in the proposal, members of the committee have indicated that these are not consistent. The allopatric nature of these species highlights the dimensionality problem of the Biological Species Concept, so we have to rely on characters might indicate separation if the two came into contact. We have no behavioral characters to help us in this regard, so for now my vote is that these would not be Biological Species, as the AOS defines them.

NO. The genetic data indicate that the Atlantic and Pacific populations have been isolated for a long time, but the weakness of differentiation in morphological and vocal features means that I can’t endorse splitting these populations at this time.

NO, but barely. Based solely on comparative genetic distances among taxa widely recognized as species, the proposal makes a fairly convincing case to me. I think the authors are really on to something interesting. The threshold for species limits in Procellariidae is low, as most vividly demonstrated by Macronectes (as pointed out in the proposal). However, the problem, for me, is these genetic distances measures are based on loci assumed to be neutral and thus explicitly have no effect (in theory) on the biology of the taxa involved. The proposal implicitly recognized this and made a good effort to search for known biological differences between the two that might represent reaching the point of divergence from which free gene flow between them would no longer be possible, but none was found. But what would we look for? As nicely outlined by the proposal, we have no clue what might serve as isolating mechanisms in this genus. What do we do in terms of species limits? Fulmarus glacialoides has been treated traditionally as a separate species, but why? Because it does not have color morphs? But color morphs are found within several species of procellariids and thus, in my opinion, cannot be used as a metric for reaching “point of no return” in terms of assessing comparative levels of phenotypic divergence in a yardstick approach. I did a cursory search for how one would officially distinguish the two species, and all I can find is a bill length difference and some illustrations of minor differences in dorsal pattern. If Atlantic and Pacific fulmars are treated as conspecific, why not also include Southern? In terms of genetic distance at neutral loci, it’s more differentiated, as one would predict given the biogeography, but does that really mean anything? The missing piece from the proposal is the upper end of genetic distance between sister taxa; this is just as important as the lower end.

This might be one of those inevitable cases in which the two populations cannot be pigeon-holed into our inherently flawed categorical scheme of classification. I’m not even sure if they are valid phenotypic subspecies. The authors wrote: “Using a suite of the aforementioned characteristics, most birds can be assigned morphologically to either the Atlantic or Pacific population.” Only if “most” means > 95% would the two fit a BSC-defined subspecies or a PSC-defined species. It sounds as if they do, using a multivariate approach, but does either population have a diagnostic character?

Regardless of proposal outcome, the authors have done a great job of outlining the problems and the existing data.

2019-A-2: Elevate Harlan’s Hawk Buteo (jamaicensis) harlani to species status

NO. 1 without comment.

NO, with reservations. Although I agree that harlani is usually quite distinct in plumage, it does seem that Clark’s interpretation of what is and is not a pure harlani is open to dispute, and that hybridization is occurring over a very wide area.

NO. I did not find the plumage, morphological, or the limited behavioral data compelling enough for a split. Furthermore, the genetic study (Hull et al. 2010) clearly shows these are not separate species. The taxonomic sampling and chosen markers of this study were sufficient to have provided such evidence, if it existed.

NO. Although Clark presents a detailed proposal of why harlani should be recogized as a full species, the external comments present a more thorough and compelling case for not elevating harlani. Specifically, much of the available information on harlani does not come from breeding birds, and there seems to be quite a bit of intergradation happening. It is also hard to define what constitutes pure harlani because of variability and overlap in phenotypic characters (both within harlani and when compared to other B. jamaicensis subspecies). The confusing phenotypic data, in conjunction with the lack of any clear genetic and/or behavioral differences, support the argument to retain harlani as a subspecies for now.

NO. After reading the proposal and the external comment, it is clear to me that we really do not know what is going on where these various red-tail taxa are coming together. Seems like mostly a lack of reproductive isolation between taxa, and there really isn’t much data to suggest that it is any different between Harlan’s and adjacent taxa.

NO. I think the analysis by Sullivan et al. raises far too many questions about the treatment of harlani as a distinct species for us to make this change. Overall to me the data available suggest that our current treatment is the best justified approach. Although the number of breeding pairs involving at least one harlani is low, hybrid pairs appear to be common. Further, exactly where one would draw the line between harlani and other subspecies of Red-tailed seems unclear.

NO. Not yet. The proposal does an excellent job of outlining differences between the two taxa, but it does not sufficiently get at what is happening where the two taxa are in contact. That  natural test of species limits is occurring, and its magnitude when quantified will be telling. So I move on to the response proposal, and find there that such quantifications are being made, and the hybridization rate seems rather high.

NO. What a fascinating case! I thank both Clark and the rebuttal team for outlining the key ingredients in this system. Regardless of taxonomic treatment, this is interesting stuff, not just with harlani but with all other taxa and populations within Buteo jamaicensis. The bottom-line for me is that Sullivan et al. have raised sufficient doubts about Clark’s interpretation and analyses that I think burden-of-proof remains on a two-species treatment. I recognize that fieldwork in these regions is difficult, but as far as I can tell, the only way to make progress on this is by detailed examination of the contact zone. On the bright side, pair composition should be easy to assess, and the plumage features can mostly be assessed from good photos. If these taxa are behaving like species, then the contact zone should be dominated by phenotypically pure pairs; if not, nothing but intermediate birds will be found, i.e. free gene flow between the two. I strongly encourage Sullivan et al. to publish their critique, which is already in good shape for publication. These points need to be in the literature so that they can be referenced and addressed.

NO. The cogent discussion by Brian Sullivan is compelling for me. Guy McCaskie long ago (early 1970’s) told me about the Harlan’s issue, stating and I’m paraphrasing: “you know with all of the Buteo species, each has its own distinctive flight shape. But, with Harlan’s it looks just like a regular Red-tailed.” I agree with that, and that should raise alarm bells in contemplating a split. I would also note that I’m not aware of any described vocal differences between harlani and the other Red-tailed subspecies. I’ve asked Bill about these things and he countered that there were other raptor pairs that had a similar wing shape and vocalizations. He may have mentioned the South American species, Rufous-tailed Hawk (B. ventralis) and Red-tailed Hawk. I’ve not seen that species, but it is not particularly pertinent to the issue at hand. With all of Brian’s concerns, and the unknown degree of hybridization (but very frequent), I would prefer to keep the status quo.

I did go back to some historical sources to check what was said on this topic. The most informative is Taverner (1936). He bases the re-split based on the tail pattern. He states, “the increase in darkness of color and slight average superiority in size may be varietal characters, but more important is the tail; and this is unique in the genus. The peculiar mottling of the tail and its tendency towards longitudinal instead of transverse marking is an entirely new color pattern; and it is qualitative in character, instead of quantitative. On these considerations it seems logical to regard this as a full species which freely hybridizes freely with borealis in all its forms. That it does hybridize with calurus is unmistakably demonstrated by a family from Mount Logan region, Alaska (III, 2-5). That it crosses with krideri and calurus can be demonstrated to occur in both those regions.” In the AOU’s split in 1944 they reference Peters (1931) and Taverner (1936) as the basis for the split.

2019-A-3: Change the English name of McCown’s Longspur Rhynchophanes mccownii

Note: The committee had extensive discussion about this proposal, reviewed external comments submitted to the committee, and solicited feedback from the AOS Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Our comments reflect these various discussions and opinions. In addition, the NACC developed a new policy on English names as an outcome of these discussions.

ABSTAIN. I am sympathetic to some of the arguments raised in this proposal, but to vote on a proposal of this type I really want us to consider things in a broader context in two ways. First, I think we need a general policy about issues of this type so that we are not responding to them as one-offs. At present I think the general policy defaults back to “we don’t ‘improve’ names” and I’m not sure that is the correct approach when there are substantial societal issues at play. This is a really, really difficult topic on which reasonable people will differ, sometimes quite a lot, on where to draw the line between preserving history and continuity versus reflecting our changing societal standards.

Second, I am very uncomfortable dealing with this proposal in isolation, not knowing where it falls in the spectrum of other potentially controversial patronyms. I’m therefore hiring some undergraduate history majors to generate capsule biographies of all people in our region after whom English bird names are derived. I would like to see that set of results before voting myself on any particular proposal, though that means I can’t at present vote on this one.

Note added after vote: The new NACC policy on English names has resolved some of my uncertainties about this topic. With that policy now available as a guide, my vote on this proposal would have been NO rather than ABSTAIN. On balance this does not seem to be an extremely strong case for changing the long-standing name based on the history and actions of the eponymic individual. I am glad that we had this long discussion among ourselves and with stakeholders, and that we now have a policy that gives weight to maintaining nomenclatural stability while also respecting the fact that there may be names that need to be changed because they cause substantial current harm. I also want to make it clear that the proposal’s author did our committee and broader community a real service by sparking this discussion and dialogue via submission of this proposal.

YES. After reading all the arguments, I do not think we should retain this name at this time. However, I would be more comfortable deferring this decision until we had a chance to do a comprehensive review of all names or had a more formal policy on how to consider similar proposals.

NO. While I fully appreciate and promote our need to increase diversity in the sciences, in my view this is not a particularly effective way to do so. If this were a Reconstruction-era monument to the Confederate Army Brigadier General McCown, I would join the proposal’s author in calling for its removal. But I don’t think this is a case that merits dis-recognizing someone who made legitimate contributions to ornithology because he was subsequently an officer in the Confederate Army. Clearly the name precedes that war, and I might add that it is permanent in the Latin. It was not an accident that McCown obtained the first specimens of this species. And here a correction to the proposal is in order. McCown did intend to collect the longspur – he was actively collecting birds for science. In fact, there were two of them (link to Lawrence 1851 here). He then prepared the specimens and sent them to Lawrence, as he did with most of his bird specimens (Fischer 2001, Early Southwestern Naturalists: 1528-1900). He was an amateur ornithologist who made important contributions (link to Fischer’s account). Those contributions included new distributional records and the collecting of two other bird species new to science (Ash-throated Flycatcher and Olive Sparrow; Lawrence 1851). He also met Audubon and was known by Coues and Bendire. In short, his contribution to our field was not a drive-by shooting of a bird that proved to be new to science.

Some additional things of interest (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_P._McCown). His court-martial may have been politically motivated; it was for disobeying orders. He was suspended for six months, as the proposal relates. Afterward, there is this pithy quote: McCown declared the Confederacy was nothing more than “damned stinking cotton oligarchy… gotten up for the benefit of Isham G. Harris and Jefferson Davis and their damned corrupt cliques.” After the war, he became a teacher and later a farmer.

President Washington owned slaves, but he did many good things, too, and I don’t support changing the name of Washington, D.C. My point is that we need to weigh our nomenclature in terms of who birds are named after and whether they merit continued recognition given the whole of a person’s actions in life. In the case of McCown, I think the name recognizes someone who made important contributions to ornithology and that his remaining life (from what we know right now) did not prove so morally corrupt that we should cease to recognize his name in association with this bird.

NO. Before we go into this type of change, I think the Committee has to have some guidelines built about how we are going to deal with patronyms and the lives and misdeeds of the 110 or so people for whom NACC birds are named. It is important to understand the story behind the ornithology and to offer balanced opinions on the history behind bird names.

NO. I appreciate the intent of the proposal, and fully support the AOS’ effort to increase diversity and inclusion. However, I agree with other committee members who are concerned about where we would draw the line on this sort of change. This name obviously has a long history that predates McCown’s participation in the Civil War, and the name given by Lawrence was apparently based on his ornithological, specimen-based contributions. As a committee focused on taxonomy and nomenclature, we should strive for stability in names unless there is a strongly compelling reason to change them.

NO. I favor the stability of continuing to use McCown’s Longspur. I am hesitant to change English names because of changing views of appropriate behavior. In the case of McCown, the only negative I really see for him is that he chose to go with the confederates rather than the union when the Civil War broke out. But I see no evidence he was involved with slavery. Given he was from Tennessee, I am unsurprised that he went with the Confederacy. He clearly had a much stronger ornithological interest and legacy than the proposal suggests as well.

NO. While deploring many aspects of 19th Century (not to mention current) attitudes, I don’t feel it is the Committee’s mission to serve as an ethics or investigative committee; we are a taxonomic committee. That said, I am not opposed to having a student look into the histories of these figures so that we can be better informed, but I am not sure that this committee should take this type of action. If we start, where do we draw the line? If we change patronymics because of someone’s 19th C beliefs, do we then start looking at species named for cultures and deciding which cultures deserve to be honored? In the specific case of mccownii, a name change is even less palatable or appropriate since it has never been known as anything else to my knowledge, and because of the scientific name.

NO. I recently read the biographical piece on John Porter McCown in the book by Barbara and Richard Mearns (Audubon to Xantus, The Lives of those Commemorated in North American Bird Names, 1992, Academic Press, pp. 301-305). After reading the account, I went back and read the proposal, which I believe is incomplete.

John Porter McCown was born near Sevierville in eastern Tennessee (east of Knoxville in Sevier County). This part of Tennessee was anti-slavery and very much against secession and suffered greatly for their views by the Confederate armies for their Union sympathies. Few slaves were held in this part of Tennessee, probably due to the Appalachian Mountains and because it wasn’t economically viable to own slaves.

At age 20, McCown chose a military career and entered the academy at West Point, graduating in 1840. Amongst his first duties was assisting in transporting Indians to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. After various duties involving Canadian border disputes at Detroit and at Buffalo, he was sent to Texas and served in the Mexican War and saw action at the battles of Palo Alto (first battle of the Mexican War, near Brownsville, TX), Resaca de la Palma, Monterrey, the siege of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo and at the siege and capture of Mexico City. After Cerro Gordo he was brevetted Captain for his “gallant and meritorious conduct.” It is true that he did resign from the U.S. Army to join the Confederate Army in 1861 and went on to a mixed performance during the war. At the battle of Stone’s River, a Union victory, Braxton Bragg, later to become a personal enemy of McCown, held McCown accountable for the loss and had him court-martialed and he was suspended from rank, pay, and other advantages for six months. McCown proclaimed the Confederacy “a damned stinking cotton oligarchy….gotten up for the benefit of [Tennessee governor] Isham G. Harris and Jeff Davis and their damned corrupt cliques.” This outburst did not endear him to his superiors and he spent much of the rest of the war in obscurity in Mississippi.

After the war, McCown returned to his home area to teach at a school near Knoxville, and in 1868 he settled near his brother in Magnolia, southwestern Arkansas. He died in January 1879 of pneumonia.

What the proposal completely overlooks was McCown’s keen professional-level interest in birds and ornithology. This is richly detailed by Mearns and Mearns (1992). After the Mexican War, while stationed at Fort Ringgold (Rio Grande City) and later at Fort Brown (Brownsville), McCown collected many birds and sent them to George N. Lawrence, who published descriptions and notes on the more interesting ones in the Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York. In the first of these papers, read on 28 April 1851, Lawrence correctly described the Olive Sparrow as new to science, although his descriptions of the Verdin and Orchard Oriole had been preceded by others. The second part of the paper detailed eleven species collected by McCown that were new additions to the U.S. avifauna, including Great-tailed Grackle, Green Jay, Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrrhuloxia, and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. In another paper, read on 8 September 1851, Lawrence described three new species collected by John L. LeConte from Fort Yuma, California, and two species supplied by McCown from Texas, the Ash-throated Flycatcher and McCown’s Longspur. McCown had been in New York earlier in the year, but later in the year was escorting recruits through San Antonio. The flycatcher was taken near a small watercourse somewhere between San Antonio and the Rio Grande, the longspur (two collected from a flock of larks) on the high prairies of western Texas.

Mearns and Mearns (1992) indicate that McCown was a good observer, an accurate and honest recorder, and an entertaining writer. The only ornithological publication that Mearns and Mearns found was in the Annals for 1853, under the title “Facts and Observations from Notes taken when in Texas.” He mentions eighteen species including Burrowing Owl, Red-billed Pigeon, Hooded Oriole, Plain Chachalaca, Greater Roadrunner, Vermilion Flycatcher, and Olive Sparrow. For some species (e.g., Greater Roadrunner) he gives lengthy accounts. Mearns and Mearns (1992) later mention that John Cassin quoted extensively from Lawrence’s and McCown’s short papers, but also incorporated other notes personally sent to him by McCown, amongst which was a lengthy description of the behavior of the Hooded Oriole.

The proposal’s portrait of McCown is one-sided. What it does not do is provide balance, notably McCown’s keen interest in birds and his many ornithological contributions. Lawrence recognized this, and I presume that is why he named the longspur after his friend and contributor. This is in the best traditions of ornithology.

NO, for all the reasons expressed by others. It is widely known that judging historical figures by current moral standards is problematic, unfair to some degree, and rarely black-and-white.

2019-A-4: Elevate Amazilia saucerottei hoffmanni to species rank

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. A separate proposal on English names is needed.

YES. Because hoffmanni is an entirely different clade within Amazilia, it certainly deserves to be split. I wish that the proposal gave some information on plumage or mensural differences. From on-line photos (eBird), birds in Costa Rica and illustration in the HBW, male hoffmanni has a golden hue to the median coverts, and the golden tint upper tail coverts extends further up the rump than on South American birds. It is difficult to hear vocal differences on Xeno-Canto as there seems to be a lot variation in context and call types among the few samples offered for each.

YES. This taxon is not monophyletic with South American forms, plus behavioral and vocal differences argue for separate biological species status. Interestingly, hoffmanni itself appears not to be monophyletic, so more research is clearly needed for Amazilia.

YES. Good support for this change. As suggestsed by others, we need a separate proposal for the English name.

YES. Proposal does a good job demonstrating that treating this as a distinct species seems to be the best treatment.

YES. I wish the writer of the proposal had consulted Stiles and detailed the statement in Stiles and Skutch (1989) differs “strikingly in voice and behavior.” That would strengthen (in addition to the genetic data) the argument. Peters in volume 5 (pp. 69-70) gives a succinct argument as to why the specific epithet, sophiae should be treated as a synonym of saucerrottei.

As for the English name of Blue-vented Hummingbird, someone will have to explain to me why this is a particularly useful name.  It doesn’t differentiate it from at least some of the South American subspecies that are currently part of the species complex. I suppose if this passes we will treat the English name issue in a separate motion.

YES. Burden-of-proof is now clearly on treatment as conspecific with saucerottei, as nicely documented in the proposal. Ridgway (1911) treated them as conspecific, and this was followed by Cory (1918) and Peters (1945). Preeminent trochidologist Gary Stiles was on to this problem in print as early as 1989 and noted important biological differences between hoffmanni and saucerottei. McGuire et al.’s comprehensive DNA study demonstrated that they are not particularly closely related within the genus, as did also Jimenez and Ornelas (2016).

As for English names, because this is not a split of two allotaxa but a phylogenetic correction, there is no need to change the name Steely-vented Hummingbird, which would be a SACC issue anyway. Ridgway (1911) called hoffmanni “Sophia’s Hummingbird,” which is clearly no longer acceptable. Ridgway’s key (below) did not use vent color to separate hoffmanni (then sophiae) from extralimital South American saucerottei, but rather rump color; in fact, vent color “dusky grayish glossed with blue” vs. “dark blue” was used in the key to separate A. s. saucerottei from A. s. warscewiczi. Therefore, we need to vet “Blue-vented” as a name, because if Ridgway is correct, Blue-vented would seem to apply at least as well to a subspecies of Amazilia saucerottei, and this certainly fits with a casual look at our few specimens (photos available on request). To make sure we get this right, let’s have a separate proposal on English names.

UNDECIDED. Non-monophyly for a species in mtDNA is not a reliable indicator of species limits, yet that seems to be the focus of the proposal. Yes, it agrees with McGuire et al., but that’s also not a great indicator of species limits (or is it? I have not read that paper that way). We expect gene trees to disagree with species trees at times (as they do among the Middle American group of species Jimenez & Ornelas studied), so I consider phenotypic evidence to be more dependable in determining species limits in cases like this. Stiles & Skutch’s observations of phenotypic differences are tantalizing but do not seem to have been further examined, e.g., by placing them in the context of other species-level differences, except qualitatively by their judgement, which is/was good. A. s. hoffmanni probably is a separate species, but basing the case mostly on lack of monophyly is not convincing to me. The substantial amounts of gene flow that have occurred in Middle America could readily cloud a genetic history that external phenotype is still suggesting is closer to South American saucerottei. But I do not know these birds.

2019-A-5: Add White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis to the Appendix

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. As discussed in proposal, little reason to consider a wild vagrant.

YES. Definitely Appendix. On top of the distributional oddity, the molt sounds hinky.

YES. It would be great to see the specimen deposited into a museum collection where it is available for others to examine.

YES. This should automatically be added to the Appendix. However, for the many reasons outlined in the proposal, it will never advance to the main list based solely on this record.

YES. The Collins Bird Guide says this is a resident species, although blue (winter) areas are shown on the map adjacent to the resident range. And it is found in winter at high elevations. It is not common. I’ve looked for it in Europe within its range without success. A genuine wild stray to North America would seem to be highly unlikely, based on our current understanding of their movements, or lack of them, in this species.

I’m wondering about the English name. The European guides I’ve looked at it simply refer to it as Snowfinch. If we go with White-winged Snowfinch we should say that Snowfinch is a widely used English name.

2019-A-6: Add European Storm-Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus to the U.S. list

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. As discussed in proposal, this has been a lapsus on our part.

YES. A number of the North Carolina records from off the Outer Banks are well substantiated.

YES. Published photographs vetted by experts.

YES. Published photos with ID confirmed by people much more capable than me at seabird identification.

YES. It seems to be well documented now.

2019-A-7: Change the English name of Saltmarsh Sparrow Ammospiza caudacuta to Peterson’s Sparrow

NO. 1 without comment.

NO. I agree that Peterson’s contributions are tremendous; however, for the sake of stability, we shouldn’t make this change.

NO. As much as RTP deserves to be honored, finding taxa that may be befitting when that taxon already has an established name would set a bad precedent and lead to other changes down the road and eventually far less stability. For instance, since I grew up using the Golden Guide, I think the name Robbin’s Robin deserves some consideration.

NO. Count me among RTP’s hordes of admirers, and I knew him personally. However, for the sake of stability, we don’t concoct names de novo for existing names as a matter of policy unless required by changes in classification or to correct errors (as was documented in the Canada Jay proposal). One can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if our policy were otherwise.

NO. Thanks to the author for submitting this proposal in recognition of RTP and his contributions to bird watching and conservation. However, this does not provide justification for changing the name of this particular species (or any other species) solely on that basis. As in the McGown’s proposal, we should strive for stability in names unless there is a strongly compelling reason to change them.

NO. In general I oppose English name changes like this one that don’t relate to taxonomic changes. Beyond which, I think Saltmarsh Sparrow is a good name for this species. Even if it weren’t I would be against this change. Peterson had nothing to do with this species, and already has a South America owl named for him (Megascops petersoni).

NO. I do appreciate the sentiment, and the great contributions RTP made to birdwatching and ornithology (we’ve all grown up using his field guides). But Peterson had nothing to do with the discovery of the species, and the scientific tradition would be for someone to name a new taxon in honor of him. That would be a better approach (and for a different bird, and probably a subspecies).

NO. We can celebrate Peterson’s many accomplishments without changing an established English name. If someone finds a new species and wants to name it after R. T. Peterson, fine. No objections. If Peterson had done lots of work with marsh sparrows, notably the Sharp-tailed Sparrow complex we might have a case for change. But I’m unaware of any such work, or even if he had an interest in this group. I have been told that a Megascops in South America was named after Peterson. If we were to change this English name, I’d favor Greenlaw’s Sparrow recognizing his important work (Greenlaw 1993) in recognizing that there were two separate species in this complex.

NO. I cannot see why this particular species is an especially appropriate candidate to be named after Peterson, or that changing any established name to a patronymic would be worth the instability it would cause. In any case, Peterson already has an owl named after him, Megascops petersoni.

2019-A-8: Change the linear sequence of species in the genus Charadrius

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. The new sequence is an improvement.

YES. Changing the sequence based on published data is better than we have now.

YES. Our current sequence is clearly very wrong. This may not be the last word, but will be a substantial improvement on our current sequence.

YES. This is an improvement even if minor adjustments are necessary later.

YES. The paper by Dos Remedios et al. (2015) provides justification to completely change the sequence of species in Charadrius. The sequence proposed looks to follow out rules for sequencing.

YES. It is troubling that no gene tree matches this topology, but our current sequence is so wrong that this seems like a good start.

YES. Even if better data force minor modifications, the proposed sequence is based on published data and sequencing conventions applied to them, in contrast to the existing one, the origin of which is likely nothing more than eclectic reasoning and historical momentum.

YES. I’m left wondering about Mountain Plover (C. montanus) and am wondering about its placement. Having Mountain Plover placed between Snowy and Collared Plovers doesn’t seem to make much sense. They have reminded me more perhaps of sand-plovers and their calls are more suggestive of that complex. I’ve long wondered just what its relatives are.

2019-A-9: Discontinue use of the possessive (“apostrophe–s”) in patronymic bird names

YES. As difficult as it will be to adapt to the new names, this seems to be the right course. I was barely aware that there was much controversy about it. There will be howls of dissent I am sure. But, the use of the apostrophe and the possessive form are clearly in violation of English grammar, and we should change now.

YES. The proposal makes a compelling argument, and ornithology is apparently an outlier on this issue. Because we are a regional list, it would be better if this change was first made on one of the global lists. Another perspective is that if we make this change now, we could lead in this regard and bring attention to this error.

YES. This is a wonderfully crafted proposal. I was ready to vote no but it convinced me. We might have to make a few exceptions for cases where the non-possessive forms have issues of their own.

YES. I’ve been on the side of retaining possessive apostrophes in bird names since I was first made aware of the issue in the early 1970s, when California-based or MVZ-influenced ornithologists actually refused to use them unless forced to do so in print by the AOU. In fact, I was publicly chastised for defending the apostrophe s to undergrads when I was a TA at MVZ. However, I have come full circle on this after reading Floyd’s analysis. Ornithology is an outlier on this issue. Removing apostrophes is not a complete overturn of stability because this was the custom in much of the older literature, including the Condor, and so there are likely many hundreds if not thousands of papers and monographs using names without the ” ‘s.” A transition will be bumpy, including misinterpretations of Virginia Warbler, Brewer Blackbird, and others, and an epidemic of misinterpreted, misspelled “Stellar” Jays. On the positive side, removal of apostrophes would eliminate some unnecessary punctuation, especially for the ugly and pedantic “Harris’s” and “Ross’s.”

NO, reluctantly. The first book I picked up, a Handbook of the Birds of the World volume from 2016, uses the possessive form of eponymously named taxa. (It is not all patronymic. Lucy’s and Virginia’s warblers were also named after individuals.) We ornithologists are also odd in our making common organismal names proper nouns and capitalizing them. But I really enjoyed reading the proposal and have little doubt that in the 22nd century it might very well be accepted. I might add that from my perspective one of the committee’s responsibilities is stability: “The committee prefers to act conservatively in its treatments of taxonomy and nomenclature…” Thus, we are not known for blazing forward on really anything. Shoot, we haven’t even been able to get rid of the hyphen in Check-list (yet). I’ll guess we’re likely to adopt this when most ornithological publications have already done so.

NO, for now. I found this proposal really interesting, and I like the arguments presented although I think the apostrophe helps clarify the basis for a name. However, I am concerned about doing this piecemeal in ornithology. This should be part of a more global discussion, and at that time we can/should revisit this proposal.

NO. I am much more comfortable with the ‘s than without. Airport names to the contrary, in English names of all sorts of taxonomic groups apostrophe s is used. In a quick check, I confirmed its use in mammals, herps, plants and molluscs. So unlike our insistence on capitalizing English names of birds, we are not on the lunatic fringe on this issue. 

NO, but fascinating. I support a global change, or leave things as they are. I’m thinking not only of Virginia’s vs. Virginia Warbler, but Grace rather than Grace’s. I’m not sure we are making things any clearer with this change.

NO, for several reasons. (1) This is a regional committee, not a global one. If we make this change, global lists following us but others for extralimital lists will have an inconsistent and confusing format, which may well result in some list authors deciding not to follow AOS anymore. (2) It will produce a LOT of work for many individuals and organizations, again with resultant inconsistency and confusion. (3) The apostrophe-s is entrenched and familiar throughout the English-speaking world, and I don’t recall ever hearing anyone complain about it before, unlike the widespread view that patronymics are generally inappropriate or even offensive. (4) I don’t think ornithology and/or birding will suddenly become more popular if we remove the apostrophe-s. (5) It would also be at odds with English names for the other tetrapod groups. (6) A real benefit of the apostrophe-s is that it is instantly clear that the bird is named after someone, not that it is a White Thrush or a Sick Swift or a Robbins Robin etc. I also personally think the apostrophe-s form just sounds better in most cases, but concede that preference could be due to familiarity.

In any case, I think making such a change should only be done after careful vetting by one or more qualified grammarian(s), and if it is done, it should be done globally, not piecemeal.

2019-A-10: Change the specific/subspecific/morphological group name of the Red-shafted Flicker from cafer to lathami

NOTE FROM THE CHAIR: The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature allows scientific nomenclature to be changed only under certain conditions. Therefore, a YES vote on this proposal means not that we will change the scientific name, but instead that we will consult the ICZN on the issue. The name cafer and its variants (e.g., caffercaffra) are used for a number of species of African birds as well as for single species in southern Asia and in Polynesia, and undoubtedly occur in the names of many more organisms in other taxonomic groups, placing the broader issue largely outside of our area, both geographically and taxonomically.

YES. However, this appears to be outside of our purview and should be handled by the ICZN.

YES, but as per the Chair’s comment, this would mean referring the matter to the ICZN, perhaps via the IOC’s WGAN. I am not at all sure the ICZN would agree that the names (and there are several) should be changed, as according to the Preamble, a major guiding principle is stability. (Incidentally, many people are named Cafer, either as first or last names, presumably of independent derivation.)

NO. I appreciate the concern, but as noted by the Chair, this issue has implications beyond the purview of our committee.

NO. This is a case for ICZN to consider. We should make sure it gets considered by them. One complication is that cafer/caffer/cafra is used for a number of bird taxa and any changes would probably need to be done all at once.

NO. It is offensive, but I agree with the Chair that this change is outside the scope of this Committee. It should be brought up with the ICZN, and they can decide how to invalidate the name. In addition, “cafer” is found as a species level taxon on our list already (Pyconotus cafer).

NO, but only because this should be a matter for ICZN. I encourage the authors to petition the ICZN and have the repugnant name officially deleted. The proposal already contains the core of a Bull. I.C.Z.N. paper, so why not turn this into an official publication? Meanwhile, now that I have been educated on its implications, I will personally find it difficult to use that name.

NO. I fully accept the authors of the motion objection to the scientific name. But, the Chair’s note gives one caution and I prefer overall guidance on this issue before rashly making the change and then going and getting permission. What if the ruling committee says no? I’m not aware of the decision making process here, and does one go on a full scale purge of other species where the objectionable word is used? And, then this would set a precedent for others to search for other scientific names that don’t measure up with today’s values. I prefer stability, if possible. Perhaps I’m overly concerned and I’ll go along with some reasonable course if the Committee wants to. At least we can be thankful that the word isn’t exactly like the objectionable word, in fact it is rather different. I certainly had no idea about the history of the word. I note that changing the group to lathami honors the man that started the entire problem to start with by getting the location wrong and causing Gmelin to come up with the objectionable name. By the way the nominate subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk is indeed resident on Jamaica as well as being a resident on Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Nevis (birthplace of Alexander Hamilton) and St. Kitts. The species was described by of all people, Gmelin (1788) based on the Cream-coloured Buzzard of Latham from Jamaica. I’m fully prepared to change any English name with this objectionable word, or any derivative of it.

As I was thinking about this and for that matter the McCown’s English name change, I thought of Barrow’s (1998) account (pp. 63-67) of Robert W. Shufeldt in A Passion for Birds. Shufeldt was a founding member of the AOU and published an impressive 1500 publications by 1924. A Dark-eyed Junco subspecies, shufeldti, one of the “Oregon” group was named after him by Coale in 1887. Subsequently Schufeldt was involved in a major personal scandal which rocked the AOU in 1896-1897. Barrow quotes Coues as saying (of Shufeldt)” that it was imperative to ‘purge the Union of such a pestilent member’ who threatened the institution’s ‘peace and dignity’ if not its ‘actual existence’ and Coues argued vigorously that ‘Shufeldt must go for the honor, dignity, and even safety of the A.O.U.” In the end the Council met on the issue for hours and ultimately chose not to expel him. Barrow quotes Coues that while there was “one opinion of the wretch”, but there was no consensus on expulsion. In the end they came up with a “hastily patched up resolution which stated that the charges were fully sustained by the evidence, but that the AOU had ‘no jurisdiction’ in the case.” Two days later the Council unanimously passed a motion directing the editor of the Auk to reject any articles submitted by Shufeldt. It would not be until 1909 that another article appeared in the Auk under Shufeldt’s name. I am unaware of any other scientific names of birds bearing Schufeldt’s name, but the junco subspecies lives on, although its range has changed, apparently over the type specimen (from New Mexico in winter) and its breeding range being assigned to the more coastal region of the Pacific Northwest. As a result the subspecies montanus (Ridgway 1898) has been relegated to a junior synonym of schufeldti.

NO. This is an ICZN issue. We cannot change the Code. It is interesting that the authors quote Coues in support. He also thought that original descriptions that were misspelled by the authors should be corrected. As I recall, he was overruled in that by the rest of the then-NACC. Yes: Canon XL of the Code (AOU 1886 [1885], The Code of Nomenclature and Check-list of North American Birds) stated that “The original orthography of a name is to be rigidly preserved, unless a typographical error is evident.” Coues fought this furiously but unsuccessfully for years, and it was later adopted by the International Code, now ICZN.

The Swedish case cited is not with the scientific names of the taxa, however. The differences are titanic. For this reason I disagree with the proposal’s authors that this case is “likely within the scope of appropriate oversight by the Committee.”

I do agree with the proposal’s authors that the wrong type locality is not a reason for renaming a taxon. If getting a type locality wrong invalidated a new form’s description, we’d be swamped.

[I wrote the above as I read the proposal and did not see the appended note from the Chair until I was done.]

2019-A-11: Treat Resplendent Quetzal Pharomachrus mocinno as two species

NO. 1 without comment.

NO, with reservations. The vocalizations appear to be similar between the two taxa, although a detailed vocal analysis might show some minor differences.

NO, for the reasons outlined in the motion.

NO. I totally agree with the proposal’s author that these taxa are best treated as subspecies, given what we know. Trogons and quetzals that occur sympatrically (up to six species at some sites) have diagnostic vocalizations, and I think that a case cannot be made for reproductive isolation without some sort of vocal analyses.

NO. There is a lot of good information here, but how it relates to specific status is not clear.

NO, but I think this is a close call. The authors are clearly on to something. I would be more comfortable splitting these if more individuals and additional genetic markers were including in the genetic analyses. In addition, the ML analyses (Fig. 2B of the paper) are equivocal in terms of the monophyly of the Panamanian samples, and no support values are given for the Bayesian analysis. Vocal differences would also be helpful to strengthen the case.

NO. The differences cited in the proposal are sufficient for subspecies recognition but do not provide evidence for reproductive isolation (e.g., are there vocal or other behavioral differences?). More work is needed.

NO. The studies’ authors appear to conflate diagnosability with species status, apparently not appreciating (a) that mtDNA differences in small allopatric populations are expected, and (b) divergences between allopatric populations/subspecies (under the BSC) are best evaluated in the context of other closely related species in the same genus (if possible) or family. These look like good subspecies, and they may even be good biological species – they are different, but are they different enough? We can’t assess the latter given present information. Clearly separate management and conservation plans should be applied to each. But the evidence does not support full species at this time.

NO. Much additional research required.

2019-A-12: Remove hyphens from the English names of species currently called “Ground-Dove”

YES. 3 without comment.

YES. Our policy requires this change, and we should be consistent with the SACC.

YES. We should follow our policy in this.

YES. Required by our system of using hyphens only for monophyletic group names.

YES. I always favor removing hyphens when possible. Less chance of me making errors!

YES. I agree with the proposal that Ground-Dove (or Ground-dove) implies a monophyletic unit. There are also a suite of completely unrelated  species in Oceania known as ground-doves (Gallicolumba or Alopecoenas).

YES. Ground Doves are not a monophyletic unit, even within the New World taxa, but there is also the Old World genus Gallicolumba where most species are called Ground Doves as well.

2019-A-13: Revise the linear sequence of species in the Fregatidae

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. I appreciate the point that this is based on a single gene tree, but at least it is based on published data; and it is easily modified if better gene sampling reveals it to be incorrect.

YES. We should make this change because it is based on the best available published data (even though it’s a single gene mtDNA gene tree).

YES. I agree with the proposal that we should base our sequence on what is currently known.

YES. This is perhaps not as much information as we’d like to have on this. But our current sequence is based on tradition. 

YES, hesitatingly. mtDNA is a single locus, and it seems like we’re seeing increasing evidence that it often does not track the species tree. But in this case it is the only evidence and is a simple, evidence-based change being imposed on a sequence created on an unknown basis.

2019-A-14: Revise the linear sequence of subfamilies in the Cuculidae

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. I agree that we should change the sequence to agree with what is currently known of the phylogeny. The proposal should have included the two species of Cuculus that are known in the NACC area. Cuculus should be placed on the end of sequence.

YES, with the addition of Cuculus.

YES. The best available genetic data support this change (noting the addition of Cuculus at the end of the sequence).

YES. Another case where our current sequence is based on tradition and this new sequence is based on at least some relevant data.

YES. Required by phylogenetic data and conventions of linear sequencing.

2019-A-15: Transfer Erckel’s Francolin from Francolinus to Pternistis

YES. 3 without comment.

YES. Seems overdue.

YES. Required by new phylogenetic data.

YES. Multiple lines of evidence support this change.

YES. This would make our classification consistent with phylogeny and align us with global taxonomies.

YES. I would favor changing the English name to Spurfowl (from Francolin) if Old World authorities make this change.

YES. I agree that Erkel’s Francolin lies far outside of Francolinus (ss) and should be placed in Pternitis. I would rather it be called Spurfowl, but without a groundswell to change the English name, we should stick with what is being used in its original range.

2019-A-16: Split White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca into two or three species

YES. 1 without comment.

YES (three species). Although there still is much to be learned about the dynamics and interactions of these three taxa, I think that we would be seeing some evidence of hybridization if there was a lack of reproductive isolation. Given that numbers of stejnegeri and deglandi  frequently mix on migration in western Alaska, they should be occasionally hybridizing. Same situation in western Russia with fusca and stejnegeri. As in so many cases, it seems that the there was little rationale for lumping them in the first place.

YES (three species). Phenotypic differences and lack of hybridization suggest more evidence of three rather than one species. Genetic data would be helpful in this situation.

YES (three species). I favor the 3 species approach in recognition of fairly obvious morphological differences among the 3 taxa, and the lack of any known hybridization.

YES (three species). The absence of known hybrids is telling, especially in a group as hybrid-prone as waterfowl. I strongly favor the name Siberian Scoter as it is appropriate and has already been fairly extensively used.

YES (three species). Great to “hear” Dick’s voice in these proposals again! This began for me as a difficult one. Helbig et al. chose a lower species threshold in my view than we typically use. Diagnosability of allopatric taxa is the threshold for subspecies status, but these exhibit additional attributes that suggest species-level status. The tracheal differences are very interesting, particularly in light of the confusion of when and how they are using their different vocalizations. The degree of the difference illustrated by Miller (1926: http://digitallibrary.amnh.org/handle/2246/4130) is striking. This looks like a species-level phenotypic difference to me. So “Yes” on separating fusca and deglandi. The non-breeding secondary contact between deglandi and stejnegeri, in taxa that pair bond in their nonbreeding season, coupled with the absence of evidence for hybridization and a similar situation but with hybridization in Green-winged Teal tips me over the edge and I vote “Yes” also on the proposal to elevate stejnegeri to species status as well. I would go with Stejneger’s Scoter for it.

YES (three species). Although there is no new information, the lack of rationale for merging these taxa initially along with diagnosable differences and lack of known hybridization suggests that a split is warranted. Thanks to Jon for bringing this issue back to our attention.

YES, but weakly. My reasoning, streamlined from the proposal, is as follows (and if I botch any of this, please let me know). First, as far as anyone knows, stejnegeri and fusca are parapatric with no known hybrids.Therefore, burden of proof is on conspecific treatment of those two. No surprise because these two differ in multiple color and pattern features, which in absence of vocalizations, would seem to leave behavioral differences in display as the only other potential RIM. Then, the question is whether to treat stejnegeri and deglandi as conspecific. Although phenotypic differences between stejnegeri and deglandi are fewer, they still differ in important ways, particularly in bill structure. Finally, as pointed out in the proposal, we have the technicality that no justification was ever provided for the lump, although failure to provide explicit rationale was SOP during that era.

My main problem with the proposal is that the taxa of Common Eiders currently ranked as subspecies would seem to differ among themselves in ways equal or greater than the white-winged scoters. I don’t know anything about this complex and whether there are contact zones. How does this complex differ from the scoter complex?

I could easily be swayed by others’ comments on this one.

HBW calls stejnegeri “Siberian Scoter.” I think a separate proposal on English names is a good idea. Given the importance of the choice of English names to many amateurs and professionals, laying out all the options with pros and cons is the wisest course in my opinion. 

YES (three species), for the reasons outlined in the motion. I have searched for the rationale in the original lumping nearly a century ago, and recently checked Reeber’s (2015) thorough work on Waterfowl of North America, Europe, and Asia. He splits all three stating that “these three scoters, largely allopatric, can be distinguished on the basis of their appearance, in all ages and sexes, with differences in plumage, bill coloration, head and bill shape, and vocalizations. Clinal variation is unknown, and there is apparently no published report of hybrids between the various taxa which further argues for their separate treatment, which has been followed here.” Reeber (2015) states that all three were considered distinct species until Dwight (1914) treated them as one species. But, Dwight (1914) did no such thing. The only taxonomic comment he offers is decrying any attempt to place the scoters in different genera. The genus then used was Oidemi. Dwight’s paper (ibid) concerns molts and plumages of scoters and he continues to treat them as three separate species. Oddly he uses the scientific name of Oidemia carbo for the Russian species. The specific epithet he uses “carbo” is a mystery. I contacted Daniel D. Gibson with his vast library and a keen interest in these issues. He could find no reference to “carbo.”

In any event I am back to thinking that Hartert (1920) was the one who lumped them without comment, and most, especially on stejnegeri, have followed his treatment since, but I welcome anyone to come up with any other published commentary that might exist between say 1915 and 1925 that might offer a further explanation of the lumping.

A comment raises a good point about the Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), and quite likely more than one species is involved with this complex. But are there two, three, or even four species? Reeber (2015) has a useful discussion in the Taxonomy section (p. 513). Six subspecies are generally recognized: mollissima in NW Europe, faeroensis in the Faeroe Islands, borealis in N Atlantic Ocean, sedentaria in Hudson Bay, dresseri in western Atlantic, and v-nigrum in N Pacific between central arctic Canada and Russian Far East. Intergradation exists between most of the subspecies, except for v-nigrum which is separated by some 1000-1200 miles from the western end of the breeding range in the Siberian Islands to Novaya Zemla (mollisima) or Franz Josef Land (borealis). In central Arctic Canada the gap between v-nigrum on Jenny Linde Island and borealis on Somerset Island is only some 300 miles. I find it curious that there are no Common Eiders breeding across a vast swath of northern Russia, yet King Eiders breed across the same area. There is a consensus that v-nigrum is the most distinctive on morphology and Livezey (1995) even assigned full species status for this taxon. A study of Common Eiders in central Arctic Canada (western Nunavut in and around the said “gap” between borealis and v-nigrum) would certainly be worthwhile. The subspecies borealis does share certain similarities to v-nigrum, including bill color and a more pointed frontal lobe. But, this discussion is another subject, hopefully after additional field studies are conducted. I’m very interested in the systematics of Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser) between Old World (nominate merganser group) and New World (americanus) birds. Alternate males in display of the former group have the forehead forward of vertical, and I’ve never seen anything close to this in americanus. This strikes me as a species level difference. I suspect that elgasi Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) is a valid full species in its own right.

If the motion passes, we will need to separately address the issue of English names. Velvet (northwest Europe) and White-winged (North America) seem well established and have been around for many decades. Obviously, the “white-wing” patches are shared by all three taxa, so the name White-winged Scoter isn’t particularly informative. As for stejnegeri, I suppose Siberian Scoter is the one being adopted (e.g. Reeber 2015) now and Pam greatly prefers this name. My main objection is that most of the breeding range is not in Siberia, but rather the Russian Far East. I realize that Americans and western Europeans refer to any part of Russia east of the Urals as Siberia. But Siberia as defined in the Russian Federal Districts, is much smaller at the northern end than is the Russian Far East. Russian Scoter would be a more accurate name, even though nominate fusca breeds in northwest Russia. Shouldn’t we defer to the Russians as to what they actually call the geographical districts? I prefer the patronym of Stejneger’s Scoter recognizing his great accomplishments and important publications from northeast Asia, but that discussion, if pertinent (the three way split passes), will come later. 

2019-A-17: Add Pallas’s Rosefinch Carpodacus roseus to the Main List

YES. 5 without comment.

YES. I agree that there is little reason to consider anything but natural vagrancy. I will trust identification based on examination by Alaska RBC and ABA–CLC.

YES. Published photo, vetted by experts, and endorsed by ABA.

YES. Published photos, accepted by ABA.

YES. Evidence seems strong. Nice to see draft wording for the Supplement included.