2020-C-1: Remove “Scrub” from the English names of the scrub-jays

YES. I think the author of this proposal put together a very compelling case. Although keeping “Scrub” in the name would retain stability based on most recent usage, these taxa have a long history of simpler names that lack “Scrub.” I vote for B1, and don’t think it would be confusing to use “Santa Cruz Jay” which is more descriptive than simply “Island Jay.”

YES. This makes sense for ‘long-term’ stability, many of these common names had been used prior to taxonomic revisions of Aphelocoma. While the common name ‘Scrub-Jay’ corresponds to a monophyletic group, simple names are generally better and in this case have a historic precedent following a taxonomic overhaul of the group. An alternative would be to more hyphenated common names, but I imagine that would probably be too much taxonomic upheaval.

YES. This is a very difficult choice for me. I’d really prefer not to change these common names at this time, but the author lays out a very compelling case based on history and precedent, and I agree that, following our own English name guidelines, we should return to Florida, California, Woodhouse’s, and Santa Cruz Jay for the group, especially since these names had been so widely used for so long prior to the lumping of the taxa. That being said, I do like the names with “scrub” in them, and part of me worries that since these names have become so familiar to this generation of birders and biologists, that changing them now would just introduce more confusion. I don’t necessarily agree that people simply referring to them as “scrub-jays” means that they don’t know they aren’t split. Often when there is only a single species of a group, birders will just call them by that larger group name (e.g., crows, geese, etc.).

YES. This is a very well-crafted proposal that changed my original opinion. For me a significant consideration here is whether this is most fundamentally a proposal to “improve” upon the existing names or a proposal to correct names that have resulted from past errors. Both levels are relevant here since some of the proposed names here are at least arguably “better” than the current names … but we have agreed that this is not a valid basis for nomenclatural change so this line of argument is not relevant.

For me the main consideration therefore has to do with the history of the current English names. I was surprised to be reminded that some of these changes happened as recently as the 1980s and 1990s. Looking at this history, it is not that any of these current English names were created in real error; instead, they were reasonable and carefully considered outcomes of a series of lumping and splitting decisions that occurred in a particular order that made a lot of sense. That has gone full circle and taxonomically we are now back pretty much to where this all started, yet we have not reverted to the traditional English names for the taxa that had them previously. I think that doing so is warranted, and I extend this same rationale to the name of the island endemic species which historically was called the Santa Cruz Jay.

A counter-argument could be that the name scrub-jay is useful because it links the species in this super-species group within Aphelocoma, and because there is a substantial literature on some of these species that uses the current names, perhaps particularly the Florida Scrub-Jay.

NO. I think at this point, people are pretty much used to these names. What we would gain in simplification, we would lose in stability. I also think these kinds of back and forth name changes are frustrating to the birding community and should only be made when absolutely necessary.

NO. I think Scrub-Jay is well established and I can see no real reason to change to Jay. On Island Scrub-Jay, the fact that there is another island endemic jay is, I think, pretty irrelevant to its common name, even if we decide to switch to Jay. The other jay mentioned in proposal (Amami Jay) is found on a small Japanese Island.

NO. This is a well-crafted proposal, and it makes a lot of sense. But equally, it makes just as much sense to keep the names that we have. They are not inherently wrong, and they indicate the close relationships, as well as recent lumping of all as one species. We would lose that if we follow the proposal. Because both sides have, to me, equal weight, the tie goes to stability.

NO. While I appreciate the thoughtfulness and care with which the proposal was developed, this name applies to a closely related, monophyletic group of jays. I do not agree that losing a name that groups these closely related and similar species is sufficiently beneficial.

NO. The motion is well put together and chronicles the history well, but I disagree with the suggestions for a path forward. For background, I started birding well over a half century ago when “scrub” was fully integrated with the English name. Despite the various nomenclatural changes, in part restoring previous treatments, no birder I’ve ever met has had any problem with understanding the concept of “scrub,” and I currently live in the area of parapatry, and not far from the area of sympatry. And, there is a relation between the term “scrub” and the habitats they are found in, or partly found in, although I realize that most of the taxa choose other habitats too, including urban areas. Removing “scrub” from the English name in my opinion dishonors Frank A. Pitelka, who wrote the brilliant and definitive work on this group in 1951 (Speciation and ecologic distribution in the American jays of the genus Aphelocoma. Pitelka correctly identified the contact area between the Woodhouse’s and California groups in the Pine Nut Mountains on the CA/NV border along U.S. 395. That hybrid zone carries on to the south, through the Antelope Valley, to about Walker. Intermediate looking birds are frequent. I’m beginning to think that Van was right to question this split. But I digress.

The suggested English names are bound to cause more confusion in regards to Santa Cruz Jay rather than Island Scrub-Jay. Folks from California know where Santa Cruz is, but it’s a small city on the north side of Monterey Bay. Santa Cruz Island Jay, or Santa Cruz Island Scrub-Jay is too cumbersome. I doubt if anyone will be confused with using “island” despite the presence of Lidth’s Jay on Amani Oshima, Japan. With Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Island, I’m reminded of the parallel situation of confusion from western Africa, Cape Verde versus the Cape Verde Islands. Fortunately we settled on the English name of Fea’s Petrel for Pterodroma feae.

I don’t view the current situation as confusing, so there is no need for a solution, and the solution suggested is more confusing than the existing nomenclature. The names are long-standing. Leave them as they are.

NO. While aspects of the proposed changes seem compelling and simplifying, and the proposal is well-crafted, I think this goes against our recently formalized guidelines for stability of English names. In this case, interpretation of stability depends on whether you are considering earlier usage or recent/present usage. Given that earlier usage never exactly matched present usage, and that present usage has become entrenched in numerous outlets and is now familiar to all interested parties, I think we should give preference to the latter. Although the Gray/Canada Jay example might seem relevant, in detail it differs substantially. The decision to use “scrub” as a group name was well-thought-out, not just an oversight, it continues to be useful and appropriate today, and is not overly cumbersome nor a burden to continue using. It would be more disruptive to discontinue its use.

NO. The last name “Scrub-Jay” defines a monophyletic group of parapatric, extremely closely related species with, in my opinion, controversial species limits, e.g. my interpretation of the data from the California-Woodhouse’s contact zone is that they are conspecific. And I’m not the only one with doubts – from Curry et al.’s BNA account of Woodhouse’s:

“Species limits among the scrub-jays are murky. Not surprisingly, geographically isolated populations in Florida and on Santa Cruz Island have fixed allelic differences from other populations, but genetic variation among continental populations in the West is relatively slight, and isolation by distance may account for the observed pattern of differentiation (McDonald et al. 1999).”

Having this group name helpfully distinguishes them from the many dozens of other just “Jays.” Further, these names have some traction already, having been in use since 1995 for Florida Scrub-Jay and Island Scrub-Jay, and then Woodhouse’s-California since 2016. I see no compelling reason to change this. The Sharp-tailed Sparrow situation differed in that the compound names consisted of 4 words, not 3 – not many North American birds have 4-word names (and all of them are also clunky, e.g. Greater White-fronted Goose, Northern Rough-winged Swallow). We also received considerable blow-back on those novel sharp-tailed sparrow names. In contrast, not once have I heard of anyone complaining about California Scrub-Jay etc.

Also, as noted in the proposal, the 1995 decision to avoid “Santa Cruz Jay” was because the city and county with that name in California are much more familiar to most than is Santa Cruz Island, thus leading to potential confusion, so if the vote is to shorten the names, “Island Jay” would be the better name in my opinion because I think it is the only insular jay, certainly so in W. Hemisphere. Even clunky “Santa Cruz Island Jay” would be better, in my opinion.

A more general comment is that the formal English name used in print is often shortened in everyday use when there is no ambiguity. I’m pretty sure I have never heard anyone say out loud “there’s a Northern Cardinal”, but rather just “Cardinal” and so on, e.g., Wild Turkey, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Northern Fulmar, Northern Gannet, Northern Bobwhite, American Kestrel, American Coot, Wilson’s Snipe, Black Skimmer etc. etc.. The scrub jay situation is not quite the same, but in everyday usage, I think most people just use a more informal “Scrub Jay” or perhaps “Florida Jay”. The point, albeit weak, is that our formal English names are often shortened in informal usage, so I don’t see a need to shorten the formal name if there is good reason to retain it, which there is in the case because of the 1-2 punch of greater information content and stability.

2020-C-2: Add Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis to the Appendix, Part 1

YES. 2 without comment.

YES. Moving to Appendix 1 makes most sense in this case.

YES. It is unfortunate that the specimen is in a private collection.

YES. Even with a specimen or photograph, this will likely remain a big question mark given the cage-bird trade in Cuba.

YES. I agree that it’s best in the Appendix, and ideally the specimen would be best deposited in a museum (not private) collection where the identity can be verified and it is accessible to other researchers.

YES. The motion is well-researched and I believe the recommendation is the correct course. I am surprised at how migratory this species is. For instance the species is rather numerous on my Thailand trips. I was surprised to discover that these are all winter visitors. An overwater flight, even of several thousand miles, wouldn’t surprise me. In fact, as noted, it has already occurred, or at least part way. Belted Kingfisher has crossed the Atlantic to Europe on a few occasions. But, the account here is too second hand. Some boys chased it through the mangroves and nailed it with a slingshot? Chasing around through the soft mud and through mangroves, just doesn’t seem credible. Maybe a lucky shot from the access road or trail, but a prolonged pursuit? Once pursued the kingfisher would take off like a bullet and disappear for good. So, probably something else happened. Given the second-hand nature of the account (or names of the kids, etc.), I’m uneasy about a first hemispheric record. There are other instances of 2nd hand accounts that make me uneasy, These include the head of the Labrador Duck from upstate New York, the head of an adult male Spectacled Eider from interior California, and perhaps the only record of Slender-billed Curlew from Ontario (a mounted specimen). Anyway, the Appendix is the right place for the species at this time.

YES. An obvious addition to the Appendix.

YES. Required Appendix entry. Intercontinental vagrant records from Cuba evidently have to be assessed with extra care because of the cage-bird trade, as discussed when we evaluated the Montifringilla nivialis record from Cuba (2019-A-5), so for now and likely forever, this one stays in Appendix.

YES. The lack of images and the specimen being in a private collection are problematic, but adding it to the Appendix seems appropriate.

YES. It should be treated as hypothetical both due to the questionable origin and insufficient evidence on its identification. While it seems possible that this could be a genuine vagrant, the south-central coast of Cuba doesn’t seem the most likely place for a vagrant to turn up in the Caribbean, and we will most likely never know. It would obviously be best if the specimen were transferred to an institutional museum collection, and also if photographs were published. Published photos would likely allow us to determine to which racial group it belongs, and thus the likelihood of its being a genuine vagrant. Without a photo or even a brief description of its plumage, we cannot even totally rule out e.g. Blue-eared Kingfisher A. meninting, which could be just as likely or maybe more so in the Asian cagebird trade than Common, although I don’t think either are usually kept as it seems they don’t survive well and the cages quickly come to smell.

2020-C-3a: Recognize four species as never established in Hawaii, resulting in transfer of Red-cheeked Cordonbleu Uraeginthus bengalus from the main list to the Appendix

YES. 8 without comment.

YES. Nicely detailed, and I don’t see any reason to vote against the recommendations.

YES. Convincing evidence for lack of establishment. Thanks Peter Pyle and Terry for putting this together.

YES. Good proposal.

2020-C-3b: Recognize four species as never established in Hawaii, resulting in removal of Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris, Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes, and Tricolored Munia Lonchura malacca from the list of species known to occur in the US

YES. 4 without comment.

YES. Nicely detailed, and I don’t see any reason to vote against the recommendations.

YES. Good proposal.

YES. I agree that it would be inappropriate to maintain Tricolored Munia on the US list while waiting for the ABA-CLC to vote, as reinstating it would not be so much an error on our part, but following new information. As it currently stands, it is not established in the US.

YES. Convincing evidence for lack of establishment. Thanks Peter Pyle and Terry for putting this together.

YES. The issue of Tricolored Munia is complicated. It is likely established in Cuba, but I note that I haven’t seen it in nine trips there. I will add that I haven’t spent one minute looking for them. They prefer agricultural areas, especially mesic ones. The ABA CLC did evaluate adding the species to the ABA List previously, on the basis of the few South Florida records, the one from the Dry Tortugas being particularly suggestive of a stray from the introduced population from Cuba. The record did not pass, the dissenters (and I believe I was one) were not convinced that the Cuba population was “established” under the guidelines already in place by the ABA CLC, as well as other state committees, notably the CBRC. Assuming the ABA CLC does soon revisit the issue, and accept the south FL records, we might hold off action on that species, until it is dealt with by the ABA CLC.

YES. Once the ABA-CLC votes on Tricolored Munia, which the FOSRC has accepted, then that species may go back on the US list.

YES. I agree that in the slightly more complicated Tricolored Munia case, it should be removed from the US list based on the lack of establishment in Hawaii, and not maintained on that list, awaiting resolution of Florida records.

2020-C-4a: Adopt the ABA-CLC criteria for considering species to be established

YES. Nicely detailed, and I don’t see any reason to vote against the recommendations.

YES. Guidelines seem clear and will hopefully help expedite decisions on establishment.

YES. These are clear and well-formulated, more rigorous and thus an improvement on our previous guidelines.

YES. The ABA-CLC has been at the forefront in determining establishment, and our Committee has largely followed their lead. We should have the same criteria.

YES to adopt the more rigorous ABA policy (although I agree with another committee member that 6 & 7 have problems).

YES. However, I do not feel that the AOS should limit or require our decisions on exotics to be voted on by state records committees.

YES. I don’t mean to toot California’s horn, but I believe it was the CBRC that first established these standards, and other states and the ABA CLC have followed California’s lead. California has an introduced subcommittee headed by Kimball L. Garrett, and proposals for additions are vetted by this subcommittee first before being circulated through the CBRC. I believe this subcommittee has been in existence for two decades, or even more, and these standards have existed for more than a decade before that. I would just revise the wording in the Supplement, so the CBRC and perhaps other committees (e.g. FOURC) get cited too. I know Kimball and Bill Pranty worked closely together on this issue.

YES. ABA has done a great job on this, and we should follow (except for the two sections noted by others); if approved, I will also propose that SACC adopt the same policy.

YES. I do not have a strong opinion on either of these recommendations. The criteria seem reasonable, but I do not know our own. Unless there are good reasons against the proposal, I have no problem at this time voting yes. Later: I find I agree with another committee member that criteria 6 and 7 are problematic. So I vote YES if these two criteria are dropped.

YES (tentative). Those criteria seem well considered and reasonable to me, but I am curious about whether other members of our committee will also find them appropriate. If anyone ends up having any reservations I will listen carefully to their input.

NO. I do favor us having a set of criteria, but I have issues with two of the criteria, 6 and 7. Personally I would delete both criteria. Number 6 is “The population is not currently, or is not likely to be, the subject of a control program in which eradication may succeed” The reason given for this is that there might be conflict between birders wanting a bird on their list, while wildlife managers might want to eliminate the species. I would argue that this is not a concern of ours. Whether or not birders get to put a bird on their life list is not a relevant consideration for us. We should be considering only whether a population is established. Additionally trying to judge what might happen in the future with human management activities is a difficult thing to do. In the listed example, Purple Swamphen, the control attempt failed and Purple Swamphen is widespread in Florida and listed by ABA and us as established.

For criterion 7 “The population is not directly dependent on human support.” I again look at the example they give of Monk Parakeets in Illinois. These parakeets are not being supported by people specifically putting food out for them, but rather they are taking advantage of bird feeders that are part of the urban environment, used by dozens of other species, both native and non-native. I really don’t see this as any different from most of the other parrots established in North America and Hawaii that are using urban landscapes dominated by non-native vegetation. If that non-native vegetation was not there, neither would any of those parrots be present. If we were going to continue to maintain this criterion, I would want it to be limited to cases where the support was specific to the individual species. The likelihood that a species would qualify on all the other criteria as established in North America and be dependent on handouts or nesting sites provided for them seems low. I would be inclined not to include this criterion at all.

2020-C-4b: Reconsider the status of four species currently accepted as established in the US: (1) maintain Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica on Checklist pending further data; (2) remove Hawaii from the distribution of Mitred Parakeet Psittacara mitrata, but maintain this species on Checklist based on CA and FL populations; (3) maintain Lavender Waxbill Estrilda caerulescens on Checklist pending further data; (4) remove Orange-cheeked Waxbill E. melpoda from US list but retain on Checklist based on populations elsewhere

YES. 5 without comment.

YES. Based on the evidence presented in this proposal and the supplementary information, I vote to retain three species listed in this proposal (Japanese Quail, Mitred Parakeet, Lavender Waxbill) on the US list until more information is presented. Japanese Quail and Mitred Parakeet seem especially intriguing, and I do not think there is enough evidence to remove them from the list (although I do agree Mitred Parakeet is no longer established in Hawaii). Regarding Orange-cheeked Waxbill, I think it should remain on the Checklist since there are still established populations in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, and should not be moved to the Appendix.

YES. Nicely detailed, and I don’t see any reason to vote against the recommendations.

YES. I prefer waiting for approval from the ABA CLC. The vote on Japanese Quail and Lavender Waxbill might have been close to acceptance, but the bottom line was they weren’t accepted. The Mitred Parakeet will first have to wait for acceptance by the CBRC, and I’m not sure that issue is on the front burner.

YES. All of these seem reasonable given the policy. Again, thanks to Terry and Peter Pyle for putting this together.

YES. I accept that we should leave Japanese Quail, Mitred Parakeet and Lavender Waxbill on the checklist awaiting better information on the quail and waxbill in Hawaii, and a specific decision on the establishment of Mitred Parakeet by local records committees in California (and maybe Florida). On Orange-cheeked Waxbill, the proposal suggests moving it to the Appendix, but only provides information suggesting a lack of establishment for Hawaii. It seems like this case is similar to those in proposal 3 (b),where the species should be removed from list of species known in the US but maintained on the main list based on presumably established populations in Bermuda and Puerto Rico, and not moved to the Appendix.

I would just note if we adopt specific criteria for accepting species as established, we should probably review all introduced species to make sure that they qualify based on these new criteria. We could, like ABA, grandfather in “obviously established” species (although I personally would love to see data on Himalayan Snowcock).

MIXED. (1) NO on removing Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica at this time. It is still being reported and it is a cryptic species, so further evidence should be gathered before this step is taken (as recommended in the proposal). (2) YES on removing Mitred Parakeet from the Hawaii list. NO to removing it from the main list though, based on the CA and FL populations. (3) NO on removing Lavender Waxbill from the list, based on the reasons given for the NO recommendation in the proposal. (4) ABSTAIN on transferring Orange-cheeked Waxbill to the Appendix pending discussion of the following: what is the status of this species in Puerto Rico and Bermuda? This is not addressed in the proposal.

2020-C-5: Revise species limits in the Zosterops japonicus complex

YES. Seems fully warranted by the phylogenetic data.

YES. Molecular data has proven very helpful in resolving species limits in this complex.

YES. Convincing published evidence.

YES on splitting Japanese White-eye into Warbling White-eye (Z. japonicus) and Swinhoe’s White-eye (Z. simplex), changing the common name of white-eyes established in Hawaii to Warbling White-eye, following other global checklists.

YES. The published paper strongly shows that there are at least two taxa within Z. japonica (s.l.)

YES. This is a species primarily outside of our area so this change would make the name consistent with other authorities; however, I would like to see additional data beyond mtDNA phylogeny.

YES to changing the English name of Japanese White-eye to Warbling White-eye, and modifying the range statement, the main findings of the paper that affect NACC at this point. I am sure there will be further changes to the phylogeny of this group once more samples and taxa are included, but these minor modifications seem solid.

YES. I look forward to clarity on this complicated issue, within the U.S. introduced populations and native populations in eastern Asia.

YES. Seems straightforward but I am a little uncertain from this proposal how certain the identification of Hawaiian white-eyes as true japonicus is.

YES (barely). This is based only on two mitochondrial DNA genes, and although there are qualitative differences in plumage and voice, a more rigorous analysis of those traits plus additional genomic data would shed better light on this situation. However, the new phylogenetic data for this complicated group indicate that a change is warranted. Further, this would put us in agreement with more global taxonomic authorities.

YES (weakly). In an explosive radiation we expect mtDNA to fail to track speciation events, so I am even more skeptical than usual to use mtDNA for species limits determinations in cases like this. Insofar as this a) is outside our main area, b) already adopted by other authorities, and c) seemingly reflects phenotypic differences on par with other recognized species in the complex (albeit subtle), I can support the proposal. I also predict that this complex will be further changed with more genomic data.

2020-C-6: Change the genus of White-crowned Manakin from Dixiphia to Pseudopipra

YES. 2 without comment.

YES. Nice proposal.

YES. Seems like this complicated taxonomic situation has been worked out, but could change my votes pending further comments.

YES. The followup paper by David et al. (2016) clinches it for me.

YES. The author lays out a thorough and detailed argument against the use of both Dixiphia and Pythis.

YES. The proposal nicely lays out the justification for this change.

YES. Proposal seems to clearly deal with the suggestion that the name Pythis is applicable to the White-crowned Manakin, demonstrating that the name is not available. Dixiphia is certainly incorrectly applied to White-crowned Manakin, leaving the recently proposed Pseudopipra as the generic name for White-crowned Manakin.

YES. We should follow the interpretations of Kirwan et al. (2016) and David et al. (2017) that Pythis is an incorrect subsequent spelling and therefore unavailable, thus leaving Pseudopipra Kirwan et al., 2016 as the only available name.

YES. This seems to be the only rational course to take. I agree that the use of Pythis would be problematic, and, from evidence provided, incorrect.

ABSTAIN. Although the proposal is convincing to me, my background in nomenclature is very weak, and I abstain for now, pending receipt and evaluation of contrary opinion by Murray Bruce. All NACC members should evaluate Murray’s comments at SACC 848 before voting.

2020-C-7: Adopt West African Crested Tern as the English name for Thalasseus albididorsalis

YES. 2 without comment.

YES. Given that this has already been adopted by the IOC Checklist, I support this decision.

YES, to be consistent with other authorities.

YES. The ‘West’ component of the common name is appropriate per the proposal and has already been adopted by IOC.

YES. This seems like a reasonable name, and is consistent with the IOC World Bird List.

YES. Warranted by the split and the name is already in use elsewhere.

YES, reluctantly. What a clunky name.

YES. Admittedly a bit clunky but really narrows it down. Plus, it’s already becoming familiar, and not many people will ever have to actually say it out loud.

YES. I really do not think that our recommended English names for taxa outside our area have much if any authority. This is a clunky name, and it would not surprise me to see some group with either a global or African authority come up with something better.

NO. I find the name West African Crested Tern to be a cumbersome English name. More pertinent is how established is this English name in the Old World? I’ve been reading the very informative paper in Dutch Birding (Dufour and Crochet 2020) titled Identification of American Royal Tern and African Royal Tern based on photographs and sound-recordings (Dutch Birding 42:1-24). The authors state that African Royal Tern Sterna albidorsalis “appears to be more closely related to the North African populations of Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis (populations from the rest of the range were not available for study) than to American Royal Tern Sterna maxima.” If that’s true their use of African Royal Tern is misleading in terms of taxonomic relationships. While it is true that S. albidorsalis is restricted to West Africa, the western subspecies of Lesser Crested Tern S. bengalensis emigrata breeding in coastal Libya, mostly winters on the West African coast. So, why not African Crested Tern for S. albidorsalis? Or, better yet, wait until Old World authorities firmly establish an English name. Also, we can leave Royal Tern as the name for our bird for now.

2020-C-8: Transfer Yellow-chevroned Parakeet Brotogeris chiriri from the Appendix to the main list

YES. 2 without comment.

YES. It certainly seems to be here to stay.

YES. Good evidence that matches the ABA criteria that we will apparently be adopting.

YES. Good evidence for this change.

YES. Seems to match the ABA criteria outlined in the proposal above.

YES, sadly. Evidence, unfortunately solid, indicates that yet another parrot has become established.

YES. The motion within the CBRC developed by the California Bird Records Committee was well-detailed (will be in the 44th Report to be published in Western Birds later this year).

YES. ABA-CLC endorsed the establishment in California, and their criteria are stronger than our criteria (but see above).

YES. The ‘West’ component of the common name is appropriate per the proposal and has already been adopted by IOC.

YES. The Florida population has certainly been present since the 1980s, so might also be established, but I guess that is an issue for the Florida records committee rather than us.

2020-C-9: Change the species name of Dwarf Jay from Cyanolyca nana to C. nanus

YES. 5 without comment.

YES. The ICZN rules seem very straightforward in this case and require going back to the original spelling.

YES. Reason given in proposal.

YES. Necessary in order to follow ICZN standards.

YES. As nanus is a noun, it does not need to agree with gender of genus.

YES. A required correction.

YES, (unfortunately for stability).

2020-C-10: Rectify the linear sequence of Progne spp. (Hirundinidae)

YES. 6 without comment.

YES. Change is necessitated by the data.

YES. I wish there was some stopgap measure that we could use for taxa that are in flux, but our taxonomy is incorrect. I feel that taxonomy in Progne is sure to change, but we need to correct the sequence and not wait.

YES. Straightforward reorganization of prior proposal.

YES. This is the best we can do with the data published so far.

YES. This seems like the best sequence given the available data on relationships in the genus.

2020-C-11a: Transfer Myrmeciza exsul to Poliocrania and M. laemosticta to Sipia

YES. 2 without comment.

YES, to follow SACC.

YES, although I would like to note my strong preference for recognizing a single genus for this entire clade, as I agree with the dissenting votes from SACC members that all of these were previously all considered under a single, larger genus (Myrmeciza), and dividing things into multiple monotypic genera in some ways defeats the purpose of using genera.

YES. A change is needed based on the phylogeny and this has already been adopted by SACC.

YES. M. exsul needs to be placed elsewhere.

YES. Appropriate on the merits and also to follow SACC.

YES. Following SACC in this case (and most that involve predominantly South American taxa) makes most sense to me for this and part b. Although I am not generally a strong proponent of monotypic or smaller genera that have been put to use here.

YES. The old Myrmeciza is a mess and these moves fix the problems related to these species.

NO. Philosophically, I would agree with the three dissenting SACC votes that this should be a single genus (by priority that looks like Sipia; I’d approve transferring both exsul and laemosticta to Sipia). This is a messy group, and I do not like so many monotypic genera. An explosion of one genus to 12 is extraordinary. This is a nice study, though. I particularly appreciate the careful phenotypic analyses that correspond with the generic limits. While I agree that a major revision is required, once again (as with hummingbirds), we’re seeing an exclusively in-group focus rather than a more robust consideration of what levels of divergence genera should be across Aves. I realize this is not easy for authors to do, but as a committee we should have some increasingly robust guidelines or we’ll be repeatedly shuffling generic limits and creating more temporary monotypic genera that later get subsumed as we even things out across Aves (and eventually among vertebrates). We’re on a remarkable tear in approving scads of new monotypic genera. Time for a major genus concepts debate, within Aves and across vertebrates.

It sounds like the SACC voting results are not clear. Membership in Clades D & E jump around quite a bit between Isler et al.’s (2013) Fig. 1 and 2 (not surprising for four loci with the bulk of the signal being from mtDNA). So ultimately, resolution of generic limits in the group is probably not done.

2020-C-11b: Transfer Myrmeciza zeledoni to Hafferia

YES. 1 without comment.

YES, although if clarification can be provided from SACC, I would much prefer a broader Pyriglena or Percnostola over breaking the group up into smaller genera.

YES. A change is needed based on the phylogeny. Although there is apparently some ambiguity on how SACC voted, of the three options presented, the option recognizing Hafferia and Akletos is preferred because 1) it matches better with strongly supported nodes than option (merging these two closes with Percnostola) 2, and 2) it requires fewer taxonomic changes than option 1 (transfer all to Gymochichla).

YES, tentatively. I voted to put the species suggested for Hafferia and Akletos in Percnostola when SACC voted. If we could adjust this proposal to Percnostola that would be good and I would favor that. We should not leave it in Myrmeciza, so if we aren’t ready for Percnostola (maybe need to wait for SACC on that; not sure if it turns out to be a problem with the tally of voting, maybe easily fixed) then we need to move it to Hafferia for the present.

NO for now. We should be consistent with the SACC, but it sounds like they are revisiting this issue and we should wait for their decision which hopefully will come soon.

NO, wait until further SACC action.

NO, following other comments about SACC.

NO. The SACC vote tally is likely botched, a conundrum to be resolved soon. Regardless, just looking at the tree, retaining Akletos and Hafferia in Percnostola looks to me like the better option based on relative lineage ages and absence of truly distinctive morphologies.

NO for now. Wait to figure out what the SACC did. I would favor putting zeledoni in Percnostola.

NO. Placing M. zeledoni in Percnostola makes more sense to me based on phenotypic variation (or lack thereof) and uncertainty in tally of SACC votes / decision on this topic.

NO. Given what appear to be rather weak generic limits, I would approve transfer of zeledoni to Pyriglena, but not to the newly described genus Hafferia. I recognize that this does not follow SACC, but I predict those results will eventually change as more data accrue and we do better on generic limits overall.

2020-C-12a: Revise the taxonomy of Paltry Tyrannulet Zimmerius vilissimus: Elevate extralimital subspecies improbus and petersi to species rank

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. I agree that splitting out petersi and improbus is warranted.

YES, following the SACC decision and the fact that they are clearly not closely related based on a molecular phylogeny.

YES. Required by phylogenetic data and consistent with phenotypic data.

YES, based on evidence presented and consistency with SACC.

YES. Phylogenetic data support this change, and we should be consistent with the SACC.

YES. Follow SACC and the data.

YES, Both phylogenetic data and morphological data support this change.

YES. See comment in 12c.

2020-C-12b: Revise the taxonomy of Paltry Tyrannulet Zimmerius vilissimus: Elevate subspecies parvus to species rank

YES. 1 without comment.

YES, based on evidence presented.

YES. These two taxa behave as different species in almost every way. I am sure with the right markers, genetic differences could be found as well, but the plumage, mensural, vocal, and habitat differences are more than enough to treat them as specifically distinct.

YES. I wish that this was not based partly on unpublished assessments of vocal differentiation.

YES. While vocalizations presented in (b) suggest strong divergence and premating reproductive isolation, this is largely based on ‘expert opinion’. It would be strongly preferable if these were based on quantitative analyses and peer-reviewed / published data.

YES. Clearly these are behaving as different species where their ranges approach each other, in terms of size, other morphological characters, and song.

YES. The evidence presented is very compelling that parvus and vilissimus are not conspecific: the differences in vocalizations especially are compelling, given the importance of vocal differences among suboscine passerines. Also, while 4.5% mtDNA sequence divergence is the smallest reported between sister species in this group from this phylogeny, it is still a fairly substantial level of divergence between sister taxa.

YES. Size, plumage and song all argue for treating parvus as a distinct species.

NO. This is not a clear-cut case. I like being consistent with global authorities if possible, and the phenotypic and vocal differences in conjunction with suggestive genetic data lean toward supporting a split. However, I would like to see a more quantitative bioacoustic analysis with broad geographic sampling, along with playback experiments. Genomic data also would help to elucidate the genetic differences. Finally, what is the chance that a contact zone between parvus and vilissimus would be found with further study?

NO. I think this would be premature given current published evidence.

ABSTAIN for now. I am going to consult with Dan Lane, Bret Whitney, and others on this one. As noted in the proposal, the evidence is based on a small N of unpublished recordings.

2020-C-12c: Revise the taxonomy of Paltry Tyrannulet Zimmerius vilissimus: Adopt new English names in accordance with these changes

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. English name Guatemala Tyrannulet.

YES, partly following in line with SACC.

YES, based on evidence presented and in part for consistency with SACC.

YES. I prefer Guatemalan Tyrannulet and Mistletoe Tyrannulet

YES. Vote for “Mistletoe Tyrannulet” as the English name for Z. parvus, and vote for “Guatemala Tyrannulet” as the English name for Z. vilissimus.

YES. Adopt new English names as suggested, including “Guatemalan” for vilissimus. “Paltry” as in IOC currently doesn’t fit with our guidelines due to its much smaller range than “Mistletoe”.

YES. to the proposed English names for petersi and improbus. YES to Mistletoe Tyrannulet (parvus) and Guatemalan Tyrannulet (vilissimus) if (b) passes. Follow the proposal’s recommendation if (b) does not pass.

YES. I think the suggested name of Guatemalan Tyrannulet for vilissimus is good when split from parvus. If parvus is not split from vilissimus I would favor retaining Paltry for vilissimus.

YES. I note that the English name used in Dickinson and Christidis (2014) for improbus is Mountain Tyrannulet, not Spectacled Tyrannulet. Any comment on this from those that know these birds? I like the name Guatemalan Tyrannulet as it immediately gives a country where Mistletoe Tyrannulet isn’t. I can’t think of anything else with Guatemalan in the name for a species. We rejected the flicker split. As for non-published vocal data, I have heard from multiple folks how different these birds are, including the vocalizations. Their split will come as no surprise to them.

YES. Adopt new English names as suggested, including “Guatemalan” for vilissimus. “Paltry” as in IOC currently doesn’t fit with our guidelines due to its much smaller range than “Mistletoe”.

YES to Venezuelan, and if b passes then Yes to Guatemalan.

2020-C-13: Split Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus and Naumann’s Thrush T. naumanni

YES. 1 without comment.

YES. I agree with the proposal writers that we should be in agreement with Old World treatments of these birds, given that they are only vagrants to our area. Seems like there is a disconnect between some field studies, where hybridization is rare, and museum collections, where it appears more common. Given the plumage dissimilarities, which is extreme compared to some other sympatric Turdus (especially in South America), species level treatment seems appropriate

YES. Published evidence definitely favors treatment as two species.

YES. The evidence for splitting them is weak, as noted in the proposal, and further study is needed to look at hybridization as well as vocal differences. However, we should follow the lead of more Old World and global authorities since the NACC area is extralimital to the species ranges.

YES, mainly because they are vagrants in our area, and we should be consistent with other taxonomic authorities in this case.

YES, following Old World authorities. The new English names don’t follow our convention, but we are following established English names for these two in the Old World, and at least the split eliminates some of the confusion for the previous situation with Turdus naumanni being the scientific name for the Dusky Thrush. If the motion passes, the AK CLC will review the one photographed record of an apparent Naumann’s Thrush from Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, on 5 June 2015.

YES, but only because this is a largely extralimital taxon with just a few vagrant individuals in NACC area. I would not feel comfortable splitting this based on the frequency of hybrids (up to 18% of some collections), but consistency among checklists / global authorities is a good thing and we should probably cede power to other authorities when those taxa are largely outside of NACC jurisdiction.

YES. I think the fact that these are vagrants in North America and the published evidence is at least suggestive of species status makes it hard for us to maintain them as a single species.

YES. Though typical individuals look so different, the evidence for specific status is hardly compelling, given the relatively high levels of hybridization. Still, there is little justification for NACC to be the only major list not splitting these essentially extralimital taxa.

YES (weakly). This is a very hard call for me to make. Ultimately, I am willing to go along with other authorities, since this is a bird that is only a vagrant to North America, and we shouldn’t be making taxonomic decisions for other regions. However, the evidence for splitting these species is very weak, and if either of these taxa were more than vagrants in our area, I would vote to keep them as a single species, as the evidence isn’t quite enough for me. In particular, data from the hybrid zone is incomplete, and evidence of reproductive isolation is not strong.

NO. “Stepanyan noted that the collection in the Zoological Museum of Moscow University contains 81 specimens of undoubted naumanni, 62 of undoubted eunomus, and 27 showing mixed characters.” That’s a remarkably high rate of hybridization. Until more is known, I think these should be treated as subspecies. Per Alström’s observation that these are the youngest Turdus taxa recognized as species fits this, and the fact that they are not “freely interbreeding” is not a justifiable species limits criterion. As for justification not to follow Eurasian authorities, I think adherence to the biological species concept and its core of “essentially reproductively isolated” requires us not to just follow everyone else in jumping off the bridge.

2020-C-14: Change the English name of Gymnasio nudipes to Puerto Rican Owl

YES. 5 without comment.

YES. This is the simplest option.

YES. I prefer Puerto Rican Owl.

YES. Puerto Rican Owl seems like the best option.

YES. This seems the best option. I’m opposed to having “screech” being in the English name given that it isn’t in the least related to Megascops.

YES. This is the simplest and least disruptive of the options.

YES. This is the best option in my opinion, as recommended in the proposal. Puerto Rican Owl preserves the 1-1 match between Megascops and Screech-Owl, just as we did when Screech was removed from Flammulated Screech-Owl. The benefit of this minor change to the information content and consistency of the English names overwhelms the cost of loss of stability. Additionally, deleting “Screech” is preferable, in my opinion, to the confusion that would be caused by mandatory removal of the hyphen in Puerto Rican Screech-Owl while retaining it in Megascops.

2020-C-15: Treat Northwestern Crow Corvus caurinus as conspecific with American Crow C. brachyrhynchos

YES. This is a thorough and well written proposal that clearly lays out the complicated history of these two taxa. It seems that the evidence for splitting Northwestern Crow was never strong, and combined with the new genetic data, it seems a straightforward decision to lump the two taxa.

YES. Glad to finally see this so well resolved.

YES. Well written and convincing proposal. The lack of F1s in the ‘triangle plot’ is particularly effective for me at demonstrating the lack of reproductive isolation and the prevalence of backcrossing in this system. Also, phenotypic variation is clinal.

YES. Those that actually look and listen to these birds, especially from the Pacific Northwest, will celebrate. Hallelujah. Decades overdue.

YES, based on broad hybrid zone, lack of F1 or recent hybrids, and any behavioral (reproductive isolating) characters that reliably separate the species.

YES. A long overdue lump that nearly all birders (and some ornithologists) see coming. Slager et al’s study impressively documents several features of a wide hybrid zone with no reproductive isolation.

YES. It’s nice to finally see a study that addresses this question. The data seem clear in supporting a merger of these two taxa.

YES. Proposal makes a very convincing case, as do the data it summarizes from the Slager et al. 2020 study. That looks much more like a broad zone of intergradation than it does any kind of recent or active hybrid zone. These taxa are certainly not acting like distinct biological species.

YES. Looking at these analyses, it seems surprising that the Northwestern Crow got away with ever being considered a species, much less for so long.

YES. “About time” will be the global reaction to this one. Thanks, Dave, for taking this project on and sorting it out.  Taxonomy aside, the biology here is fascinating.  Comparing extremes, say northern coastal populations to deep interior populations, it is hard to imagine that those dainty, funny-sounding coastal birds are the same species as typical interior populations (with an eerie similarity to Fish Crow vs. American Crow differences), so in the absence of geographic barriers, there must be a steep selection gradient that is screaming for an explanation.

YES. This has been pretty clear for a while. Good to finally get careful study to confirm what we’ve long suspected.

2020-C-16: Revise species limits within Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo) – 2 without comment.

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo). There are just too many unknowns for me with regard to splitting up the Horned Lark complex. And while the position of bilopha apparently within alpestris is interesting, I’m hesitant to completely rearrange Horned Lark species limits based on mtDNA evidence alone. I think more information is needed from additional sequence data and vocal and behavioral studies.

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo). Without any discussion of reproductive isolation, I feel we cannot adequately analyze species limits. As I have written many times before, I do not think that paraphyly at the species level is a problem.

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo). Nice proposal but there is still little evidence to split based on criteria of Biological Species Concept, which the committee uses.

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo). The alternatives split extralimital species that none of the worldwide lists have yet split, and I don’t think we should take the lead there. The rationale for those splits is based almost entirely on the mtDNA-based phylogenetic information, and that has the standard limitations. The argument about paraphyly does not convince me because this is commonplace and expected by theory for species at an early stage of differentiation. I think monophyly is an essential criterion for genera and all higher taxa, but not relevant at the species level.

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo). While a four-species solution seems likely to be the best one, we need to see integrative data on reproductive isolation, vocal analyses, and morphology before taking this leap.

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo). I’m not sure why we want to get into the splitting business of the various Old World subspecies. I do note from Svensson (2009) that no vocal differences are documented between subspecies (flava and pencillata are illustrated). For E. bilopha (Temminck’s Lark), vocal differences from E. alpestris are described, and the juvenal plumage of Temminck’s looks little like E. alpestris.

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo). I think this revision would be premature and based too much on mtDNA alone. A lack of monophyly in mtDNA is not a problem for biological species, as the proposal states in another way under Option 1. I predict that further research will show a lot of complex gene flow in this group and give us a clearer indication of where reproductive isolation is actually occurring. Good work on this proposal.

NO. (option 1, maintain status quo). Revising species limits based on an mtDNA gene tree is something we haven’t done in a decade or more, now that the gene tree/species tree issue has finally been widely recognized in birds. Therefore, that Horned Lark is paraphyletic with respect to E. bilopha has yet to be established in my opinion. A more guarded statement is that it is paraphyletic with respect to mtDNA. Further, without solid data on contact zones and vocalizations, the number of BSC species in the complex is unresolved; as Nick noted in the proposal, species limits would be driven entirely by genetic data, in this case largely ND2 and cyt-b. I would be surprised if this massive complex doesn’t consist of more than one species-level taxon, but the data just aren’t there to make a proper assessment.

Further, concerning the elevational differences between adjacent but nonetheless allopatric E. bilopha and E. a. atlas, keep in mind that within North America, I think we have comparable situations such as in the Northwest, where, as far as I can tell, E. a. alpina breeds in the Cascades and E. a. strigata in the lowlands, thus potentially within sight of one another, separated by unsuitable forested habitat. There’s a reason Horned Lark is so widespread — all it needs is some bare ground, from barren, hot lowlands to cold tundra, and it’s a great disperser. If elevational separation is the main criterion for species rank for bilopha, I’d be for treating it as conspecific with E. alpestris, but that’s not in our jurisdiction.


2020-C-17: Split Unicolored Jay Aphelocoma unicolor, elevating A. u. concolor, A. u. oaxacae,and A. u. guerrerensis to species rank

YES. This is an excellent study that combined genomic data with a quantitative assessment of phenotypic and ecological niche differences among populations/subspecies. There are no known contact zones. Bioacoustic analyses would be a great addition, but I think that there is sufficient evidence to warrant the proposed splits.

YES. Genetic, morphological, and ecological niche data argue for separate species. However, lack of contact zones always makes it a tough call when using Biological Species Concept. Nevertheless, the data presented in this study provide more evidence for separate species than keeping them together.

YES, including on the proposed English names. The weight of the evidence marshalled in this proposal seems to me to fall solidly on the side of this split. It is convenient to have robust information from closely related taxa to use as a bit of a benchmark.

YES (weakly). I fully support a 2-way split across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, based on genetic and very strong niche-divergence data. However, splitting the 3 taxa west of the Isthmus I am less supportive of, although the very clear divergence between all of them (although low in some cases), clear phenotypic diagnosability, and some degree of niche divergence all support their separation. One of the strongest arguments for me was niche divergence across the group, especially since it noted that in many taxa, there is niche conservatism across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, while in these taxa, there is strong niche divergence.

NO (tentatively). This boils down to where we should draw the line between whether these should be classified as species or subspecies. I agree with Van that the morphological and niche modeling results could easily be considered as more along the lines of what would be expected of subspecific differences. The genetic results, however, are similar or even greater than those among our recent splits within other taxa of Aphelocoma, but this yardstick approach is not an absolute. What it comes down to is whether these taxa would be reproductively isolated if they came in contact. I see greater differences between Woodhouse and California Jays (calls, plumage, habitat) that are earmarks of reproductive isolation than I do within these A. uniciolor taxa.

NO for now. This seems to me the most difficult proposal of the batch, because there is indeed a compelling case for at least a 3-way split among the oldest lineages. I note that the situation parallels that of the Mesoamerican “dwarf” Cyanolyca jays, for which species status of each lineage has been undisputed, even though plumage differences, while more striking than within the Unicolored Jay, are variations on a theme. The lack of vocal analysis is a problem, and though daunting given the number of vocalization types in a single population (>40, according to HBW); there are now recordings from most of the populations, so presumably at least the most common vocalizations could be compared. If vocal analyses can be done, and a modified proposal presented that allowed for a vote for other options such as a two- or three-way split (assuming this is warranted by any new data), then I could see voting yes.

NO. This is close, but I would like to see some vocal data brought to bear on this issue.

NO. Interesting and worthy of further studies, notably if there any vocal, behavioral, or habitat difference between the various taxa involved. Interesting that guerrerensis from the cloud forests of southwest Mexico is the most distinct, reflecting an area of endemism noted with other taxa (e.g. within the Emerald Toucanet).

NO. Fantastic study. This is a difficult decision as these are allopatric taxa and we must make a subjective decision on how much phenotypic and genetic differentiation equate to separate species. For me, a split between the taxa on either side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (concolor, guerrerrensis, oaxacae as one species; unicolor and griscomi as a separate species) makes sense. I am less inclined to further split the taxa on either side of the isthmus unless there is strong evidence of reproductive isolation among them. If we use the A. ultramarina vs A. wollweberi and the A. woodhousei and A. californica splits as ‘guidelines’ for when we might observe speciation within the Aphelocoma genus, then splitting oaxacae from guerrerrensis (0.9 Ma) would be a more recent speciation event than any other recognized split within the Aphelocoma. I think the proposal would be better constructed as a tiered proposal where the authors outline subproposals for incrementally fine splitting of the complex. Again, this is a subjective opinion on where we draw the line between species / subspecies. In this case, I would probably recognize two, perhaps three species within the complex, but four seems a little bit too much on the side of equating phenotypic and phylogenetic diagnosability with species status for my taste. Furthermore, oaxacae and guerrerensis exhibit more instances of niche convergence than null divergence or divergent niches, suggesting some level of niche conservatism relative to other splits in the phylogeny.

NO. Evolutionarily distinct lineages are not equivalent to biological species. Most allopatric populations become distinct relatively quickly. These look like perfectly good subspecies to me. This body of work is great, I just disagree on what constitutes a biological species. Aside: Time is not a very useful species limits criterion, and I am not convinced that niche divergence (at least as we are measuring it) is a particularly useful species limits criterion.

The proposal reminds me that I disagreed on the committee’s vote to split out woodehouseii, and here was my reasoning there (i.e., “reduced gene flow” is not a sufficient species limits criterion; degree of reduction is critical):

— NO. I do not support this split. Paraphyly is not relevant at this level. Taxonomy should not be modified to reflect mtDNA phylogenies at the species level in many cases; this seems like one: an island form colonist can readily speciate while mainland forms continue to be able to interbreed, regardless of which mtDNA lineage stochastically established itself with the island colonist. So I completely discount this argument (way too heavily made) in the proposal. The important new information is data from the contact zone. As STRUCTURE analysis shows, microsatellite gene flow in the hybrid zone is rampant (and, aside, clusters in STRUCTURE are not equivalent to species, as many other vertebrate studies have shown; genetic distinctiveness is fairly easily achieved). There does not appear to be any evidence of assortative mating, though I agree with Gowen et al. (p.9) that the difference in cline widths between mitochondrial and nuclear DNA “suggests a measure of reproductive isolation.” That “measure” does not seem to be sufficient to be materially affecting hybrids in the contact zone, and the permeation of unlike genotypes far into the ranges of the other type in Fig. 3 suggests to me that selection against this gene flow is not sufficient to enable evolutionary separation in the face of the gene flow occurring in the contact zone (I think that for now they are fairly well stuck together evolutionarily). So we have the birds themselves not assortatively mating when they come into contact, creating a remarkably mixed hybrid population and very nice secondary contact hybrid/tension zone that correlates with phenotype. From a biological species perspective, I think these are still subspecies that “have begun the process of reproductive isolation” (Gowen et al. 2014:7).

NO, unless we adopt a different lineage-based species concept. Venkatraman et al. (2019) did a great job in quantifying and characterizing geographic variation in this species. I wish we had these sorts of analyses for every bird. They rigorously demonstrated that geographic variation is not clinal but instead more-or-less step-clinal, partitioned into discrete, diagnosable units that generally match the subspecies names assigned from weaker phenotypic assessments from a pre-genetic era. But at what point on the continuum do we elevate taxon rank from subspecies to species, particularly in allotaxa? Without additional evidence on potential behavioral barriers to gene flow, these populations have not reached the level associated with known cases of reproductive isolation in corvids. That “we” voted to elevate subspecies to species in the other Aphelocoma groups was a decision I voted against. Here’s what I wrote in 2010 on the A. ultramarina group, and I still stand by this:

— NO. The rationale of this proposal is concentrated on the 9% divergence in mtDNA, the reciprocal monophyly, and calibrations that suggest a Miocene split … in other words, that the genetic differences between Ultramarine and Mexican are consistent with species rank. However, these degrees of genetic divergence are really not that different from population-level differences within species of sedentary tropical birds. Of course compared to the North American species that this Committee typically deals with, these genetic differences are large. However, they are really not impressive when compared to those among populations ranked as members of single species in many tropical birds. [My favorite is from Ben Marks’s PhD dissertation: phenotypically indistinguishable populations of West African Bleda syndactylus differ by 8-11% in sequence divergence.]

Further, having spent some time roaming through our good series of these jays, all I see (with all appropriate caveats) are minor differences in size and color that are expected in geographic variation within taxa we rank as species. In step-clinal fashion, the intensity and extent of blue on the head increases from northernmost arizonae southward to the ultramarina group. The differences between these two groups are less than those between populations of Steller’s Jays, Gray Jays, and Green Jays, for example, or even among the Scrub Jay species group. I encourage those of you with access to collections to check the skins; if you don’t, check Plate 2 in Madge & Burns “Crows and Jays” book. Looking at Howell & Webb (1995), who were vigilant in mentioning species-level phenotypic divergence in voice and other features within species of Mexican birds, nothing is mentioned concerning any differences; also, consistent with an absence of major plumage differences, they only illustrated wollweberi (in contrast to 3 other jays with separate subspecies illustrated). In fact, Howell & Webb’s illustration of Western Scrub-Jays within Mexico (subspecies hypoleuca vs. cyanotis) shows as much or more variation within Mexican subspecies of the latter than exists between the proposed separate species of Mexican Jays. Obviously, I do not intend these observations to represent hard evidence one way or another, but only to describe qualitative levels of the plumage differences involved. So, without some other data (besides genetic divergence) on the degree of differentiation between these two groups, e.g., vocal or behavioral, I see no real evidence for species rank. If we base species rank solely on genetic distance and reciprocal monophyly, then we might as well turn over these decisions to the bar-coders.

And here’s what I wrote in 2016 concerning the woodhouseii-californica split, and I stand by this as well. My interpretation of the same data set the majority interpreted as evidence for two species is the opposite, namely that the birds themselves have shown that their “differences don’t matter” when it comes to mate choice. That there is selection against hybrids outside the contact zone is expected under the BSC — otherwise, parapatric subspecies with zones of introgression would all blend, eventually, to produce nothing but clinal variation,

— NO, tentatively and subject to change pending comments from others. The new studies on Aphelocoma genetics are rigorous, fascinating, and important to the study of evolution at the population level. However, this proposal seeks to elevate the woodhouseii group to species rank based on new genetic data that, in my view, do not clearly support that taxonomic treatment. Although presented in support of species rank, my interpretation (open to correction!) is that gene flow is restricted only by the small size of the contact zones and possible selection against hybrids outside the hybrid zone.

The data from Gowen et al. (2014) concerning Haldane’s rule are not particularly convincing to me concerning taxon rank, but I am eager to be convinced otherwise. Gowen et al. (2014) did show that gene flow was “current and frequent, although limited in geographic area. Birds in the Pine Nut Mountains represent all variety of crosses from possible F1s to advanced backcrosses.” My take on this is that in the one area where there is opportunity for a test of reproductive isolation, the two groups treat each other as “same” rather than “different”. Although gene flow barely penetrates the parental populations, this is because the contact zone is narrow and because indirect evidence suggests selection against hybrids away from the hybrid zone. A reasonable hypothesis, in my view, is that if the contact zone were much wider, then the signature of that gene flow would be felt deeper into the parental populations. Even if strong selection eliminated most of that flow, the fact remains that the two parental types freely interbreed where given the opportunity. The slight differences in voices evidently have no consequences for reproductive isolation.

That the “current taxonomy does not accurately reflect phylogeny” is not a problem for me (and I’m not alone on this) because paraphyly at the population level is rampant and an inevitable consequence of incomplete genetic isolation and lineage-sorting. Monophyly of course is the sine qua non of taxon delimitation above the species level, but not in my opinion a requirement for species rank. In fact, I’m not sure if the terms “phylogeny” and “monophyly” should be applied at the population level (and I think Hennig would agree) without specifying which loci are sampled and that the labels refer only to the most recent geographic isolating events. A requirement of monophyly at the species level would make it difficult to treat a peripheral isolate that has diverged rapidly from the much larger parental population as a separate species (as in Island Scrub-Jay) because that would likely render any non-panmictic parental taxon paraphyletic due to shared unique loci between the peripheral isolate and the nearest population of the parental species.

More broadly, perhaps the Committee needs to take a stand on what is meant by “reproductive isolation” under the BSC. This is not an easy decision – Mayr himself actually wavered at one point. We all agree that hybridization per se does not constitute reproductive isolation – many taxa we treat as species hybridize to varying degrees. However, none of the taxa that we treat as separate species under a BSC approach “freely interbreed” at contact zones (as far as I know), i.e., mate non-assortatively. The intuitive appeal of this approach is obvious — if two taxa do not treat each other as “different” when it comes to all-important mate choice, then why should we taxonomists? On the other hand, a reasonable case can be made that hybrid zones themselves act as reproductive isolating mechanisms if there is no gene flow beyond the zone in which a hybrid swarm persists because of strong selection against hybrids; this is the view adopted in the current proposal. I lean towards the former (non-assortative mating) because of its intuitive appeal — this is the only taxon rank defined by the behavior of the organisms themselves. No matter how small the contact zone, if the individuals at that contact zone show no signs of assortative mating, then to me that sends a meaningful signal concerning the degree to which the taxa in question have diverged.”

I emphasize that the research data produced by John and his group are terrific. I think these papers set the standard for modern analyses of geographic variation. So, I’ve got nothing but praise for the research itself, but disagree in the somewhat trivial byproduct of the important underlying science, namely its taxonomic interpretation. Specifically, from the proposal summary:

• “The four lineages of Unicolored Jay are 100% diagnosable in plumage color and morphology”. This is sufficient evidence for ranking them as a taxon, and under the BSC, at least subspecies, but not necessarily as species.

• “are divergent in nuclear and mitochondrial genomes” This would be the expectation in all cases of allopatric sedentary populations, including those without taxonomic rank. Divergence is a continuum, with no widely accepted, objective way to use it taxonomically.

• “and have different niches”. The same analysis applied to all montane taxa in this region, regardless of taxonomic status, would produce the same result; thus, these “different niches” are irrelevant to species limits. All this does is nicely quantify the obvious, namely that many or even most species do not occupy homogeneous ecological areas, depending on how you define their “niches”. As with “divergent”, “different” is also a continuous variable. Keep in mind that, just within Corvidae, the resident Common Raven population at Barrow, Alaska, and the population at Death Valley, California, occupy eco-climatological “niches” that are as different as they can get.

• “The genomic divergences are deeper than or comparable to those between lineages in Aphelocoma that are in secondary contact but have demonstrated selection against hybrids.” I appreciate the point, but comparing divergences between a totally sedentary subtropical species and a temperate zone species, especially one prone to dispersal, notably during bad acorn years, is somewhat apples-oranges. Further, there is gene flow between the Scrub Jays, thus theoretically lowering the degree of divergence. Finally, for “selection against hybrids”, see my comments above.

Finally, if the proposal passes, I think we should give strong consideration to using a hyphenated group name “Dwarf-Jay” for the members of the group. This increases the information content of the name and helps us sort the diversity of Middle American jays.