2022-C-1: Revert to Mew Gull for Larus brachyrhynchus (Short-billed Gull)

NO: The short version of my reasoning on this is as follows. I agree with one of the main points of the proposal that the name “Mew Gull” is unique, that the English name situation is somewhat unique, and that most of today’s Europeans associate it almost exclusively with the Nearctic species. But that’s about it. The crux of the proposal is that we supposedly violated our guidelines on stability by changing from Mew to Short-billed, yet the proposal glosses over the point that leaving one of the daughters of the split with the parental name causes perpetual confusion, and that we consider that a de facto case of instability in terms of matching English name and taxonomy. In other words, keeping brachyrhynchus as Mew Gull would actually represent instability. The proposal claims that we violated our guidelines on English names. It is clear that we did not. In my opinion, if Short-billed Gull had not been available, then we would have had to coin a new name because the confusion created by having one daughter name the same as the parental species makes it preferable to change the name. It’s just a fortuitous bonus that an older name is available, one used exclusively for the Nearctic taxon during a half-century of literature and also one that is highly appropriate for the species. True instability, in the sense of the intention of our guidelines, would have been to do something like inventing a new name for the composite species.

The theme of the proposal is that Mew Gull is a great name that has always been associated with the Nearctic taxon. This is true for current usage, but not historical. “Mew” is evidently derived from obsolete Anglo-Saxon and Middle English words that meant “gull” and perhaps specifically L. canus canus, and hence has its origins in the British isles. As far as I can tell, “Mew” has no meaning in modern English and thus provides no information about the bird. Also as far as I can tell, its association with the Nearctic taxon is an unexplained accident. In contrast, Short-billed emphasizes a major, distinctive feature of the species, and is also the AOS name associated the taxon until 1957.

Below is the long-winded version. A caveat is that this is what I’ve learned so far from sources available to me. If I’ve missed something that overturns all of this, then let’s move forward by correcting my conclusions.

The proposal makes a big deal of the point that Europeans associate “Mew Gull” with the Nearctic species, but I am puzzled as to why that is so important. What is important for NACC purposes is that when brachyrhynchos was considered conspecific with canus, we called it Mew Gull. We (and the IOC list) associated the name Mew Gull with a Holarctic species. Now we don’t. This is a case in which stability, i.e. continuing to use Mew, is actually a negative, because of the perpetual confusion that it would cause by the association of Mew with two opposing species concepts. Fortunately, a historical name was available, Short-billed Gull, and although as emphasized in the proposal it is unfamiliar to most living birders and ornithologists, Short-billed is a far superior name in my opinion. It captures the most important identification feature of the species, with the minor side benefit of being a translation of the scientific name. All this was clearly explained in the original proposal (2021-A-3) and supporting comments.

The proposal insists that Mew Gull is an excellent name. But what exactly does “mew” mean, anyway? This one has always puzzled me. The proposal implies that it has something to do with dainty, but so far I can’t find any evidence for this. If this is the case, then can someone please elaborate? Mew Gull has been in the Nearctic literature since at least Ridgway (1919), who by the way restricted Mew to the Palearctic species and used Short-billed for the Nearctic species; Ridgway provided no source for the name “Mew Gull”, but it seems unlikely that he conjured it up – he almost certainly drew on some British reference of the era; however, Terry Chesser (in litt.) checked 7 British bird books (1883-1915) in the USNM library and found that all used Common Gull. So, the origin of Ridgway’s name remains mysterious.

Choate’s classic “The Dictionary of American Bird Names” (1973) gives the following: “Mew G. O.E., mew, ‘a gull’”.

Webster’s Unabridged gives the following [abbreviations written out here]: “mew, noun [Middle English, mewe, mawe; Anglo-Saxon, maew, a mew] a sea gull or other gull; a sea mew, especially Larus canus; also mew gull.” 

Two points. First, the derivation clearly comes from Britain and has been associated with gulls, mostly likely L. canus, for roughly 1500 years. This puts the proposal’s point that the Europeans associate Mew with our brachyrhynchus in a different perspective, no? Mew Gull was introduced as the name for the composite species in the 1957 AOU Check-list. Prior to that, brachyrhynchus, whether a species or subspecies, was known as Short-billed Gull in all literature, presumably also European. Second, as far as I can tell, “Mew” doesn’t actually mean anything; it is an archaic, colloquial word for “gull”, at best most likely referring to L. canus. So, the name essentially means “Gull Gull” or “Mew Gull Gull.” However, I suspect there isn’t a single person out there wedded to Mew Gull who can explain off the top of their head what Mew refers to, and it is difficult to make a case that it is a helpful name.

I emailed David Donsker about the origin of Mew Gull and its use in Britain. Here is his response:

I can help, I think. We may not be going back far enough.

The name certainly didn’t arise with Ridgway.

It was used, as an example, for nominate Larus canus in Richardson’s Fauna Boreali-Americana (1831) where it is listed as: ‘Larus canus Mew or Common Gull”. Larus brachyrhynchus is listed as ‘Short-billed Mew-Gull’). 

But in, for example, Latham in his General Synopsis of Birds (1785) and his General History of Birds (1824) it’s Common Gull. And Morris in his History of British Birds (1842) already had it as “Common Gull” with an alternative as “Sea Mew”. So it looks like by the early-mid 19th century, Common Gull was well established and “Mew” was disappearing.

W.B. Lockwood 1993 The Oxford Dictionary of British Bird Names says this: “Mew is the native English term for a Sea Gull, going back to Middle English. It remained in normal literary use until the mid 17th century when it was largely ousted by the newcomer “Gull”. 

Hope this helps some. David

In my follow-up email to David requesting permission to quote him, he said: “By all means, extract what you’d like from my email to use in your comments. I like the observations that you’ve made, especially the blatant fact that Mew Gull actually means “Gull Gull”. 

That leaves us with the proposal’s argument for stability as the only potentially valid point. But in this case, stability is detrimental in terms of masking the taxonomic change. Yes, stability is a core mission of the English names policies of the AOU/AOS and always has been. But this is a good example of why we also have explicit provisions for changing an established name when it becomes taxonomically misleading. Don’t those same people who are wedded to Mew Gull because that’s the way they learned it (even without knowing the derivation) deserve to be alerted that the species concept they learned has now changed? This is the benefit of casting aside stability when species limits are changed (or in this case restored). 

So, how did we end up with Mew Gull anyway? I searched on “Larus” in all AOUCL Supplements in the Auk from 19th (1944 – first Supplement after 1931 CL, which used Short-billed) through 31st (1956 — last Supplement before 1957 CL, when Mew Gull first appeared as an AOU name). No trace of anything on this change. I may go back through them again in case I missed it. But as it stands, I tentatively conclude that Mew Gull just appeared as an unexplained, unjustified edict in 1957 AOUCL. I would really like to know why the AOUCL made that change when foundational Nearctic literature of the era (Ridgway, Hellmayr & Conover, Dwight) used the sensible Short-billed. Additions and corrections welcomed.

I also point out that I am so old that I actually learned the bird as Short-billed Gull. This name wasn’t used only in the old technical literature but also in popular literature, e.g. where I learned it, namely the National Geographic Society’s Book of Birds. First published in two-volume form in 1932, it was reprinted subsequently six times (through 1939) and was one of the most popular bird books in the middle of the 19th century; in fact, it might have been the only comprehensive North American bird book for quite some time. If the number of used copies available is any indication, this may have been one of the most popular bird books of the era. It was my primary source of information on birds when I was a kid, and the beautiful Allan Brooks plates were inspiring. I first encountered “Mew Gull” when the Peterson western field guide came out in 1961, and it took me a while to figure out what that was, and I never figured out what the “Mew” part referred to. I’m possibly the only bird person still living who still thinks of “Mew Gull” as a meaningless, novel name that replaced a perfectly good name for no apparent reason. Is the proposal tainted with a hint of ageism?

Comments on specific points in the proposal:

  • “Mew Gull has never been used officially in the Old World for Larus canus. It was always Common Gull there. If Mew Gull was in widespread use outside of the Americas, I would understand the need to change the name.”

As far as I can tell, Mew was in use in the Old World, specifically Britain, for roughly 700 years before the existence of the New World was known to Europeans. If the Palearctic people want to use Common Gull, that’s their business despite the obvious problems with using “Common” in any bird name. Also, the statement “never been used officially in the Old World” is incorrect. For example, it is Mew Gull in MacKinnon & Philipps’ “A Field Guide to the Birds of China” (2000; Oxford U. Press, as in Oxford, England; Mackinnon is from Univ. of Kent), as it is also in Grimmett, Inskipp, and Inskipp’s “A Guide to the Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives” (1999; Princeton U. Press; all three authors are British as far as I can tell from brief bios). Note that these major regional guides predated the first IOC list (Gill and Wright 2006). The IOC name for the composite species is “Mew Gull”, and thus any source in the Old World that follows IOC English names, and there are sources that do, then Mew Gull has been in use there extensively unless the source made a specific exception for Common Gull.

  • “Mew Gull is a well-liked name, the kind of name people remember. It also implies something diminutive and ‘cute’ perhaps, short-billed is literal and true, but somehow it just does not evoke the small, dainty, distinctive look of brachyrhynchus.” And “However, the gestalt, the sound, the emotional content of the name Mew Gull has value”. 

Says who? No reference for this was provided, and so I challenge this. If Mew refers to diminutive size and cuteness, this is news to me …. And evidently also to the world’s English dictionaries. Perhaps the superficial similarity to “meow”, suggesting perhaps a kitten, is the source of this? I speculate that the proposal has it backwards — because Mew Gull is small and dainty relative to other Larus, we just assumed it meant “dainty and cute”? Mew Gull may indeed be well-liked (??) and memorable, but it is useless to any beginner and says nothing about the bird (invoking a point often used in lobbying for bird name changes). And how can it be well-liked if no one knows what it means? I strongly suspect that 99+% of birders have no idea or the wrong idea of what it means.

NO. I somehow had just assumed that Mew Gull referred to the particular voice of this species, and presumably it had its roots as an onomatopoeic name and ended up being used for all gulls (I haven’t checked). Note also that the German group name for gulls is “möwe”, Dutch is “meeuw”, Afrikaans is “meeu”, Polish is “mewa”, etc. (thanks Avibase) so it looks like only the English moved on from the Anglo-Saxon word to “gull” and French to “goeland” (Spanish is “gaviota”, Portuguese “gaivota”). I don’t think “Mew” is a particularly cute name or implies cuteness, and maybe it’s even a little annoying or belittling. 

I also don’t think stability should consider only people who are currently birding and familiar with a particular name. I think there is considerable value in connecting with the older literature, wherein most of the baseline information lies, and which now is easier than ever, with nearly all of it online and readily googled.

NO. After reading the comments and thorough review of the history of the names, it is clear to me that there are good reasons to retain Short-billed Gull. 

NO. I appreciate the arguments presented, but I think we made the right decision initially. Stability isn’t just about contemporary use, it’s also about stability in the literature. The references to Short-billed Gull aren’t as obscure as presented in the proposal. I took a quick look at a couple older books on my shelf and they use Short-billed to refer to North America and Mew to refer to European.

NO. From the recent NACC discussion on this subject, it seems clear that “Mew Gull” was often used through the pre-lumped history for nominate canus, along with Common Gull. Perhaps when lumped in 1957 the CLC decided to use the more broadly applied Mew Gull for the expanded taxon, thereby restricting Common Gull to the Old World taxon if split. It appears that up to that time, Short-billed was the only term used for brachyrhynchus, whether as a species or a subspecies. Although Mew Gull never caught on in the Old World, that doesn’t change the fact that we called brachyrhynchus Short-billed and when lumped we called it Mew Gull. 

NO. Thank you for all the historical information on gull names. Short-billed Gull is the name that avoids confusion with past literature, and therefore, enhances long-term stability. Additionally, Short-billed Gull is descriptive of the bird.

NO. Like others, I do not find the arguments for changing the English name of Larus brachyrhynchus compelling. Even if “Mew Gull” had never been used for the Old World taxa ever (digging has shown that it has been, even if a very long time ago), I think by the guidelines for establishing English names for daughter species, in this case, the range size differences are sizeable enough that I think it would necessitate a “new” name for the Nearctic taxon. Plus, as was pointed out, Short-billed Gull was used by the AOU until 1957 when the Nearctic and Palearctic taxa were lumped and “Mew Gull” was used for the Holarctic species. I believe “Short-billed Gull” represents the stable choice, as it was the name historically used when brachyrhynchus was originally split. I would also argue that the decision to use “Short-billed Gull” follows the example set when we returned to using “Canada Jay” over “Gray Jay” for Perisoreus canadensis, which was the original historical name for the species.

NO. The proposal does not consider that the taxonomic group L. [c.] brachyrhynchus had the English name Short-billed Gull in the 1998, 7th edition of the Check-list and L. canus had Mew Gull in that same work. Earlier history also shows that “mew” was frequently applied in English names for L. canus canus as well, fairly often in the 1800s but even as far back as 1430 (McAtee 1948). I like Mew Gull, too, but name popularity on a decadal scale is not the best guide to fostering stability.

NO. This proposal and discussion demonstrates how taxonomic stability may imply different things to different people, or how some may prioritize certain aspects of taxonomic stability over others. However, as others have mentioned (thanks to the other NACC members and colleagues for their deep dives on this topic), Mew Gull did have some historical usage in the Palearctic and Short-billed Gull does appear in various older references—at least more so than the proposal seems to imply. Furthermore, I personally like Short-billed Gull as a more descriptive English name.

NO. Short-billed Gull was the English name of choice for this distinct taxon for over half the time of existence for AOU/AOS. Moreover, it was unjustly lumped by Oberholser (subsequently AOU) around 1920 based on an examination of two specimens, one of which from the Commander Islands (brachyrhynchus) might have indeed been that taxon. It is listed as casual from the Commander Islands with specimens from the USNM, one of which Oberholser may have run across more than a century ago. One cannot establish a standard based on just what has gone on during their lifetime. I would add that “most” might support Alvaro’s position, I believe they do so without knowing the full history. Short-billed is a great descriptive name, one that had a long history of usage for the New World taxon. 

2022-C-2: Treat Sturnella lilianae (Lilian’s Meadowlark) as a separate species from S. magna (Eastern Meadowlark)

YES. It’s great to see such a straightforward integrative analysis that seems to unambiguously support species status of lilianae.

I personally don’t prefer Pallid, as (at least in humans) it is associated with ill health. Yes, we already have plenty of bird species called that but I’d prefer not to add to it. I like either “Chihuahuan” though it doesn’t describe its full range, or High Desert, which seems to refer to a greater percentage of its range. The fact that we don’t have any other “High Desert”-named species doesn’t bother me. I checked McAtee (Reel 1, page 712) and did not see any previously used names that I thought would be preferable. Lilian’s and Arizona both have obvious problems, and Mexican would be fine if it weren’t that the race mexicanus is part of magna.

YES. I voted for this split in 2016 and evidence for two species is now extensive. Most importantly, genomic data shows no evidence of contemporary or historical introgression. Vocalizations are also distinct. I’m not thrilled with Pallid for the common name. I would prefer High Desert or maybe just Desert? Or maybe Pale instead of Pallid. I think Pale is more commonly used. 

YES. This is an excellent proposal that revisits an old issue for the NACC. The genomic data combined with the quantitative acoustic analysis, hybrid observations, and lack of evidence for evidence of historical or contemporary introgression provide strong support (finally) for recognizing lilianae as a separate species. I prefer Pallid Meadowlark to the other proposed names. It’s short, descriptive, and suggestive of an arid environment (comparable to pallid bat). Western Meadowlarks also occur in desert areas, auropectoralis doesn’t occur in the Chihuahan Desert, and “High Desert” to me is too vague (the Great Basin is also a “high desert.” Congratulations to the proposal author for a nice study.

YES. Great data set although some playback trials to see if those song differences make a difference to the birds would have made this even better, as would have an analysis of call notes, which differ strongly between Eastern and Western, but have been considered not to differ much or at all between Eastern and lilianae since Lanyon’s early studies (but he did not present sonograms of calls). But I see that Beam et al. is an undergraduate research project, which clearly constrains its scope (and thus a huge congratulations to the research group for such a solid contribution). The genetic data essentially require treating lilianae as a separate species. Ecology strongly hinted at separate species status. As was noted 60 years ago in seminal papers by Bud Lanyon, It is very odd that Eastern prefers more mesic situations where it overlaps with Western, but then lilianae “Easterns” prefer the opposite situation where it overlaps with Western. Lanyon (1962), who considered lilianae conspecific with magna, stated he had “no satisfactory explanation” for this habitat reversal. But in light of these new genetic data, we have a simple, satisfactory explanation — they aren’t the same species – no explanation needed. I suspect that just from an ecological standpoint, Easterns and lilianae are genetically incompatible. In my limited and slightly stale experience, lilianae also flies more like Western and does not have the rapid, buzzy, bobwhite-like wingbeat of the “real” Eastern Meadowlark. 

A comprehensive analysis of all taxa treated under S. magna would be ideal, but clearly beyond the scope of this project. Perhaps this will provide the incentive for someone to study all those Neotropical populations, which trickle all the way to northeastern Brazil as well as to Cuba, with genomic data. Barker et al. (2008), using a much more limited set of genes but with samples from most populations all the way to Brazil and including Cuba, found that broadly defined S. magna was monophyletic, but the same analysis did not show a clear sister relationship between Eastern and Western with respect to lilianae and actually found weak support for a lilianaemagna sister relationship. Nonetheless, we can cite Barker et al. for retaining all those taxa under magna pending additional data, especially voice. By the way, in Marshall Iliff’s NACC proposal on splitting lilianae back in 2016, he noted a pers. comm. from Nathan Pieplow that indicated that Pieplow found that the songs of the magna group in southern Mexico sounded more like lilianae. This should provide additional incentive for comparisons of song between lilianae and those tropical populations of magna: potentially, the vocal distinctiveness of lilianae would be diminished or even vanish if those taxa were included.

As noted by another voter, we need to formally consider Lilian’s Meadowlark as an option – it is the current, widespread informal name for lilianae and its derivation is as follows (from Jobling): “Lilian Convers Hanna Baldwin (1852-1948) US socialite and sponsor, wife of ornithologist Senator Samuel Prentiss Baldwin.” She does have a strong association with the discovery of this species more than is indicated in that skeletal account, which will hopefully be elaborated on in a separate proposal.

YES. Integrative compelling evidence supports S. lilianae as a separate species from S. magna. Sturnella neglecta and S. magna are more closely related to each other than both of them to S. lilianae, and there is no contemporary introgression between any of the three clades (lilianae, neglecta, magna).

For the English name, I vote for option 3) Pallid Meadowlark. Options 1) Chihuahuan Meadowlark and 2) High Desert Meadowlark refer mainly to the geographic distribution of lilianae but not to auropectoralis. Option 4) White-tailed Meadowlark does not differentiate it phenotypically from other species in the genus.

YES. Fortunately, we have the excellent work of Bud Lanyon to provide a foundation for interpreting this situation, along with added recent genetic and vocal analyses. Given that neglecta and magna (ss) are sisters, and given the pre- and post-zygotic mating barriers between them (vocally, ecology), it stands to reason that lilianae, which also differs vocally and ecologically, should be treated as a separate species. The degree of genetic distinctiveness and lack of known hybridization between either lilianae and magna (or neglecta), despite parapatry, indicates reproductive isolation.

YES. For all the reasons outlined in the proposal: 1) lilianae is sister to neglecta and magna together, 2) vocal differences between lilianae and magna are on the same level as differences between magna and neglecta, which have been shown to hybridize infrequently and also show reduced hybrid fitness, 3) no evidence for contemporary or historical gene flow between lilianae and neglecta or magna. For common name, I like “High Desert Meadowlark,” though just might be better in this case “Desert Meadowlark,” as the entire range of auropectoralis is not necessarily high elevation. My second choice for name would be “Pallid Meadowlark”

YES. This is a nice piece of work in a group that has been very important for our understanding of avian speciation in North America across many decades. The degree of vocal overlap suggests that song is probably not a sufficient isolating mechanism on its own, but that postmating mechanisms (given evidence from S. magna vs. S. neglecta studies) are probably very important, as Beam et al. (2021) note. I do, however, find that the background on English names in the proposal is inadequate in that it treats the situation as being rather new and focusing on possible names without historic due diligence. This major group was named “Lilian’s Meadowlark” in the 7th edition (AOU 1998), and I don’t think as a committee we can be so ahistorical as to ignore names previously used (especially our own). The only other name used historically besides Lilian’s (or some minor variant) was “Arizona meadowlark,” per McAtee (1948), and that by the AOU (“Suppl., Auk, 1944” – which I did not look up). I will abstain on an English name vote at this time, pending resolution of how to resolve this issue, which is absent from the proposal.

McAtee, W. L. 1948. American Bird Names, Their Histories and Meanings. Manuscript at Cornell University Library, microfilmed May 1989.

YES. An excellent study, kudos to Beam and collaborators for their work. The genomic data are compelling in splitting S. lilianae: the topology of Sturnella, with lilianae as sister to magna and neglecta, combined with the detailed ABBA-BABA analyses are convincing that these are reproductively isolated lineages. Separate species status is further supported by quantitative differences in song. Playback would be icing on the cake, but is not needed in my opinion to split these taxa in this case—especially in light of Lanyon’s previous work on hybrids. Would be great to see future work done on the Central and South American populations. Based on ongoing NACC discussions, it sounds like we will need a separate proposal to establish the English name for lilianae.

NO. I realize that I stand alone on this and also acknowledge that molecular data may require a split. I just mention that there were some that didn’t accept the split of Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (perhaps in retrospect the right decision) despite the fact that Island Scrub-Jay was genetically closer to California Scrub-Jay, than California Scrub-Jay was closer to Woodhouse’s. 

Perhaps it is my declining hearing, but when I hear the songs and calls of lilianae, they sound very close to magna/argutula/hoopesi to my ears, not at all to S. neglecta. And I echo Van’s comments, that there were no playback experiments of calls and songs to liliane of the magna group and S. neglecta to determine the reaction. I would add the flight rattle notes sound similar between lilianae and the magna group, and again quite unlike neglecta.

In addition, I acknowledge that auropectoralis clusters with lilianae, not the magna group in terms of molecular studies and vocalizations (calls and song), but mexicana and other Mexican subspecies remain unstudied in terms of vocalizations (and molecular data?). What if they fit with lilianae? That will bring up a very interesting question as to what happens where mexicana meets hoopesi where there is no barrier like the Sierra Madre Oriental. Although the map doesn’t show this, I figure there is a gap of some 200 miles between breeding liliane and hoopesi or magna. That barrier appears to be the Pecos River Valley. 

Some 20 years ago I was part of a group that banded sparrows in the Sonoita Grasslands of Southeast Arizona. One time Wesley Lanyon was along. We captured many sparrows, including Baird’s. We saw lots of lilianae meadowlarks, although they all avoided the nets. I talked to Lanyon about lilianae. I can’t remember whether he was aware if I was then on NACC then, but the last thing he said to me and he did this directly as a parting comment, do not split the meadowlarks. I would feel a bit better about this if the relationships of the other Mexican subspecies were more carefully figured out in relation to hoopesi and auropectoralis. This would include mexicana, griscomi, saundersi, and perhaps alticola.

As for splitting, I have advocated splitting hippocrepsis from Cuba as its song is unrecognizable from either the manga or lilianae groups of Eastern or to S. neglecta. The flight rattle sounds like magna (or lilianae), but in ten trips to Cuba, I have never heard the dzert note so characteristic of both magna and lilianae. 

2022-C-3: Recognize Riccordia elegans as a species, subspecies, or doubtful taxon

DOUBTFUL TAXON. I doubt that elegans is a subspecies of bracei but given the lack of provenance and lack of genetic analysis I don’t think we know what it is yet. Hopefully that will change soon.

DOUBTFUL TAXON. Evidence for this being a taxon at any level is unconvincing to me, so I go with doubtful taxon.

DOUBTFUL TAXON. As noted in the proposal, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding this taxon. I agree with the proposal’s recommendation to recognize it as a doubtful taxon pending further study (the idea of using isotopes to try and determine the geographic origin of the specimen is a good one).

DOUBTFUL TAXON. The lack of geographic information of the holotype (and also the single specimen of the taxon) leaves no other option. Further isotopic and genetic analyses might help to clarify its status.

DOUBTFUL TAXON. No way to clarify whether it’s specifically distinct or subspecies of another species without additional information. 

DOUBTFUL TAXON. Recognize as “Doubtful taxon” for the reasons outlined in the proposal.

DOUBTFUL TAXON. I agree with proposal’s recommendation.

DOUBTFUL TAXON. Eventually, it would be good to apply DNA technology to this taxon, but the morphology alone is equivocal. And, as the proposal says, stable isotopes might provide some locality information.

DOUBTFUL TAXON. I vote for “doubtful taxon” based on available data. 

DOUBTFUL TAXON. I agree, doubtful taxon is the best place to put it for now. 

2022-C-4: Treat Anthracothorax aurulentus as a separate species from A. dominicus (Antillean Mango)

YES. Reasons are given in the proposal and in the WGAC discussion.

YES. As noted in the proposal, these two species differ as much or more from each other as do other Anthracothorax species, and the continental ones are evidently parapatric without known hybrid zones, so by extrapolation … sure, let’s restore species rank, especially since no rationale was ever published for the lump. The size difference also seems unusual for taxa treated as subspecies in hummingbirds.

YES. Difference in size, shape, and plumage in males and at least to some extent in females. Differences comparable to other species in the genus. Given the island distribution, hybridization would be unlikely but genetic data would be, of course, helpful. No justification given to lump them in the first place. Proposed English names are good. 

YES. In hummingbirds, size differences are generally indicative of different species. Additionally, color differences are evident and distinctive within the genus. Genetic studies, including a comprehensive phylogeny of the genus Anthracothorax, are needed to better understand their evolutionary relationships. I vote for the English names suggested in the proposal: Hispaniolan Mango for dominicus and Puerto Rican Mango for aurulentus.

YES: The differences in size and underpart color of the males is quite large for taxa considered to be conspecific. Other continental Anthracothorax taxa that are considered species but differ much less in plumage or size approach one another with little or no gene flow. Agree with the recommended English names (Hispaniolan and Puerto Rican)

YES: Differences in morphology (namely size) and color are pretty striking. Genetic data would be useful, but perhaps difficult to apply to island lineages that likely cannot be tested for reproductive isolation in sympatry. My impression based on what we have is that these are separate mangos. The proposed English names are acceptable. 

YES: Splitting seems to be appropriate given the taxonomy elsewhere in the genus. I note, in particular, the minor plumage differences between A. prevostii and A. veraguensis. And, as noted, no justification for the lump in the first place. Hispaniolan is fine for the Hispaniolan species, although Black-bellied would counter well with Black-breasted if that were the name for the Puerto Rican taxon. Puerto Rican is unacceptable for A. aurulentus for two reasons as it also occurs on the Virgin Islands and there is another Anthrocothorax on Puerto Rico, Green Mango. It’s more Puerto Rican than A. aurulentus as it occurs only on Puerto Rico. 

NO. I could be convinced to split these taxa after reading other NACC comments, but Terry’s assessment for WGAC that 10 of 20 female specimens at USNM show violet-copper panels in the tail very similar to those for dominicus, with another 6 showing some of this coloration (albeit less extensively) – thus leaving differences in size and extent of breast coloration as the basis for splitting – sways me to hold off for now. I do not see evidence to support species-level treatment at this time. If they are split, I am fine with the proposed English names of Hispaniolan Mango and Puerto Rican Mango.

NO. This is a difficult case: island taxa in the gray area between subspecies and species. If mainland Anthrocothorax species limits were clear and unambiguous, I’d be more comfortable considering these as species rather than subspecies, but without new data we seem to be reshuffling the same information that has historically caused them to be moved back and forth. And, in general, evidence suggests that allopatric taxa are probably oversplit (Hudson & Price 2014). Hudson, E. J., and T. D. Price. 2014. Pervasive reinforcement and the role of sexual selection in biological speciation. Heredity 105:821–833.

NO. I could be swayed to vote yes for this pending further discussion, but given the overall lack of published analyses of the differences between the two taxa, and the messy nature of Anthracothorax taxonomy in some of the other species, I’d prefer to wait until a more thorough analysis of plumage and genetics is published. That being said, given the nature of the differences, I expect these two very likely do represent separate species.

2022-C-5: Transfer Pitangus lictor (Lesser Kiskadee) to the monotypic genus Philohydor

YES. Genetic data now require this change. The differences in skull morphology, syringeal morphology, and nest structure have been known for a long time, and their shared plumage patterns are clearly just retained ancestral character states in a broader lineage that shares these patterns to varying degrees; alternatively, this may be a case of social mimicry in that lictor’s water-edge habitat is always shared with sulphuratus.

YES. An easy one.

YES. The genomic data combined with syringeal morphology support this change in generic treatment.

YES. Strong placement of this taxa in UCE phylogeny requires this change. Putting them in separate genera places the character differences and similarities in a more accurate evolutionary context – lots of interesting hypotheses about character evolution here.

YES. Phylogeny and highly-supported nodes agree with the generic change from Pitangus lictor to Philohydor lictor.

YES.  Reasons are outlined in the proposal.

YES. The genetic data are unambiguous that lictor does not belong in Pitangus

YES. I agree that the evidence supports removing this from Pitangus and acknowledge that the solution requires yet another monotypic genus.

YES. Resurrecting Philohydor and transferring Lesser Kiskadee (lictor) to this genus is supported by phylogenomic analyses described in the proposal. 

YES. Reasons are put forth in the motion.

2022-C-6: Transfer Grus monacha (Hooded Crane) to the Main List

YES. Alaska record makes its inclusion in our list nearly indisputable. Those records from the Lower 48 might as well also be treated as valid, as indicated in the proposal. The situation seems roughly comparable to that of Common Crane records in the Lower 48. The initial record was widely questioned in terms of origin, but now that a slight pattern has developed, inclusion of the species on the main list has better support. Patience rewarded.

YES. It seems just as likely as many other north-east Asian migratory birds to be a long-distance vagrant, although it does have a limited range.

YES. Nice documentation with a specimen, and there is no reason to doubt its origin.

YES. Specimen record from Alaska.

YES. Specimen collected in Alaska supports the transfer of Grus monacha to the Main List.

YES. No doubt on the identification. And no doubt that this is a wild bird, as almost certainly was the individual in 2010-2012, now that we know that a no-doubt individual can arrive here from wild Asian populations. Hooded Crane joins several species of central Asian migratory species that have reached North America. Notice the similarity to the breeding distribution of the crane to that Greater Sand-Plover, which has twice reached North America.

YES. Reasons are outlined in the proposal.

YES. The evidence is now quite compelling.

YES. Glad to see that they collected the voucher.

YES. Reasons are put forth in the motion. I would add that the species is not yet on the Idaho list, the one place it is said that birds escaped from captivity. I would also add that with the addition of Hooded Crane to the Main List, it seems a little inconsistent that Demoiselle Crane (Anthropides virgo) remains in the Appendix (not that I’m lobbying). The Demoiselle wintered in the Central Valley of California with Sandhill Cranes and presumably the same bird was seen that spring in British Columbia and Alaska. It is highly migratory and has strayed far from its normal range. One would assume that additional records of Demoiselle would lead to reconsideration. 

2022-C-7: Add Larosterna inca (Inca Tern) to the U.S. List


YES. Published, tangible evidence. Inca Tern is regularly displayed in zoos, but the possibility of an escape in this case is exceptionally small. Terns in general are among the world’s most accomplished dispersers, with some remarkable vagrant records.

YES. It does not seem surprising to me that a dispersive Humboldt Current species would turn up in Hawaii on its own, and the plumage stage indicated it was a young bird, making it especially likely to be a vagrant.

YES. Good documentation and I don’t see any reason not to go with acceptance in accordance with the Hawaii Bird Records and the ABA CLC. 

YES. Photographic record from Hawaii.

YES. Well-documented and published record from Hawaii.

YES. Identification is not an issue as this species is unmistakable. The plumage and molt cycle seem to indicate a bird about one year old. For a bird of this age, the degree of wear is not unusual , and does not necessarily indicate previous captivity. The advanced state of some of the body plumage (more adult-like than expected) is interesting, but the range in variation in this feature is likely not well-known. The behavior of taking fish from fisherman and not being afraid of people is in line with their “normal” behavior at fishing ports in Peru and Chile (I have seen them in Lima a few times and you can get within 2 m of them as they roost under docks during the day). The behavior and physical condition of this bird are thus not out of line for a wild vagrant. 

An Inca Tern in Hawaii, however, of course raises concerns about transport by ship. The movements of Chinese fishing vessels from off South America to the central Pacific raises the possibility that this bird hitched a ride from its hatching area across the Pacific to Hawaii and may have been provisioned along the way. At one extreme, a fisherman may have kept it as a pet, confined it, and fed it fish scraps and let it go once near Hawaii. The other extreme is free-flying bird self-provisioning and roosting or resting occasionally on ships. I don’t think an Inca Tern could fly from South America (or even Central America) to Hawaii without stopping to rest en-route on boats. Of course, we do not have any information on its trans-Pacific crossing. Given the bird’s and species’ behavior, I think the latter scenario, of a free flying bird taking advantage of boats to occasionally rest, is plausible and more likely. 

YES. Reasons are outlined in the proposal.

YES. Good documentation.

YES. Birds that land and remain on ships are not acceptable, but I don’t object to them using such a structure for part of the journey. In this case, we don’t know, and the ambiguity of such is enough for me to accept, especially since it is already on the Main List. Long ago there were rumors of an Inca Tern in the San Diego area, but I have been unable to track down those details. 

2022-C-8: Remove the account for Macronectes giganteus (Southern Giant-Petrel) from the Appendix and replace it with an account for Macronectes halli (Northern Giant-Petrel) in the Main List

YES. Plenty of Macronectes have to remain unidentified, but this one clearly has the dark reddish bill tip of Northern. [My question is why did we have “Southern” in the Appendix rather than Macronectes sp. in the first place? (name changed from Antarctic to Southern in the 53rd Supplement in 2012).]

YES. I will go with the experts on this.

YES. Published, tangible evidence vetted by experts.

YES. Photographic evidence identified to species, unlike the other records. 

YES. Experts confirmed based on photographic evidence.

YES. This is obviously a giant-petrel (Macronectes), with its massive size (larger than nearby BBAL), large head, very heavy pale bill, with bulbous plates and nares, and mostly dark color. The oft-cited feature for distinguishing Northern vs. Southern is the color of the bill tip, pale greenish and not noticeably different from the rest of the bill in Southern, and reddish brown, noticeably darker than the rest of the bill in Northern. The bill tip of the bird in question is dark. The distribution of the darkness is not different than that shown in stock images of NGPE, so it is unlikely staining by prey that it had eaten recently. The grizzled look around the face indicates that it is likely not a juvenile, so it will have fully developed bill coloration. From the accounts by observers and images it appears to be feeding normally with BBALs and NOFUs, and thus is not likely to have been captive, although it may have ridden ships to cross the equator (okay by ABA-CLC standards, as long as it was not restrained in any way).

YES. Reasons are outlined in the proposal.

YES. The evidence looks solid enough to make this change.

YES. The evidence looks good.

YES. Reasons are laid out in the proposal. 

2022-C-9: Add Turdus naumanni (Naumann’s Thrush) to the Main List

YES. As far as I can tell from the photos it looks like pure Naumann’s and I see no reason not to follow the regional committees.

YES. I don’t see a reason not to follow the AK CLC and the ABA CLC.

YES. Published, tangible evidence vetted by experts.

YES. Documented record, now vetted and accepted by AK CLC and ABA CLC. 

YES. Published photographic evidence. Expert confirmation through comparison with museum specimens. 

YES. Given that there had been a few earlier reports of Naumann’s from the outer Aleutians, this occurrence may not have been totally unexpected, even though Naumann’s occurs a good deal farther away from Alaska than Dusky Thrush, which is quite rare (but more or less annual). The photos show a Turdus thrush that clearly is rufous and white below, with no dark markings in the flank feathers, which are fluffed out showing good detail in Hoyer’s photo (strangely not provided but in the Macauley library: https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/28468591). The Levison photos show the wings and a bit of the dorsal surface, which appear rather plain grayish brown, with no dark scalloping or bright wing panel like Dusky. Thus, with no features indicating a possible hybrid ancestry, and the confirmations of several experts on Old World thrushes, I do not have any hesitation in accepting this as a pure Naumann’s Thrush.

YES. Reasons are outlined in the proposal. While the ID may be tricky, I see no reason like others have stated not to follow the other committees and expert opinions.

YES. I voted against recognizing this taxon as a full species (because the hybridization rate is too high), but I appreciate the effort that has gone into determining that this individual was not a hybrid and is indeed this taxon. 

YES. I will trust the expertise presented here. 

YES. Reasons are outlined in the proposal. This record presented numerous complexities, first with the taxonomy, then with the identification, in particular the degree of hybridization and the plumage variation of the hybrids. Pavel Tomkovich and in particular Yarsoslav Red’kin were helpful in comparing the photos to the large collection of hybrids between Dusky and Naumann’s at Moscow State University. The time between the sighting and the last of two motions took seven years, perhaps not surprising given the above issues. 

2022-C-10: Treat Pharomachrus costaricensis as separate species from P. mocinno (Resplendent Quetzal)

YES. I agree with the proposal that the combination of morphology, genetics, and voice together suggest species-level differences. It would be nice to have playbacks to see how the two taxa respond to each other, but the discrimination appears to be high – not 100%, but higher than for P. fulgidus.

YES. In 2019, I voted “no” on this proposal but considered this a close call. I cited the few genetic markers and lack of analyses of vocal differences. I was also concerned that, in the ML analyses, the branches representing costaricensis were equivocal in terms of monophyly with respect to mocinno (i.e., paraphyly was possible). Also, the Bayesian analyses presented did not indicate posterior probabilities (support values). There are no new genetic data, but the proposal does present the new vocal analyses of Bolaños-Sittler et al. 2020. These analyses clearly show differences in the spectrograms and these are largely separated in the PCA. There is no intergradation in territorial songs across latitude. In addition, the LDA does a good job of discriminating the two subspecies. We would all probably like to see rigorous playback experiments to feel 100% comfortable considering these Biological Species. However, as Bolaños-Sittler (2020) point out, this is not possible, given the conservation status of these two taxa. Given all the data we now have (morphology, vocalizations, and genetics), I’m now comfortable considering these biological species. In my mind, there is enough combination of morphology, song, and genetics to split the two species. I’m not sure what to do about names, as “Costa Rican” Quetzal is not appropriate given the Panama part of the distribution. Also, Northern and Southern seem like awkward additions.

YES. This is a close call for me, but I think the analysis of the vocal differences between these taxa, together with some morphological differences (though likely not observable in the field) and genetic divergence suggests that these are separate species. To me, the vocal differences are equivalent or nearly so to the vocal differences that led to the split of various other trogon species in the past 10-15 years. As for the name, even though the northern mocinno has a larger distribution than costaricensis, both are widely referred to as Resplendent Quetzal, and many are probably more familiar with it from Costa Rica, so I think both should get a new name, and while I’m not a fan of the clunkiness of the name, I vote for “Northern Resplendent Quetzal” and Southern “Resplendent Quetzal”

NO. This is a tough one, a borderline case, with demonstrated differences in vocalizations, some aspects of plumage, and moderate DNA divergence. But hard as I try, I can’t identify many images based on those plumage characters (some of the nominate males do have extraordinarily long tail streamers, and many of the females have browner heads than female costaricensis), despite my being very familiar with costaricensis in the field. And despite song differences discernible and measurable in sonagrams, I can’t hear a difference and am not sure how the birds themselves would perceive and respond (or not) to them. I do know that in Costa Rica they will respond to what seemed to me to be rather variable human imitations of their songs. 

If the proposal is voted down, it also provides a cautionary tale in that just because a proposal is declined partly because certain data types have not yet been analyzed, that does not mean a proposal based on a later analysis when they have been will necessarily be able to show species-level differentiation.

NO. Bolaños-Sittler et al. 2020 represents the most comprehensive vocal analysis of the genus Pharamochrus up to date. The new vocal data shows that three Pharomachrus species (antisianus, auriceps, pavoninus) can be clearly differentiated by voice (100% – Table 3 from Bolaños-Sittler et al. 2020). The species P. fulgidus is not completely recognizable by voice (75% – Table 3), which the authors attribute to the small sample size (n = 4).

Spectrograms show that the voice of P. mocinno can be distinguished from the other four Pharomachrus species (Figure 3). However, there is overlap between the voice of both P. mocinno subspecies (P. m. mocinno and P. m. costaricensis, PCA – Figure 4), which is reflected in the Random Forest confusion matrix (Table 3). Additionally, as mentioned by Bolaños-Sittler et al. 2020 and originally published by Solórzano & Oyama 2010*, voice recordings from P. m. costaricensis are recognized by quetzals of both subspecies (although not a formal playback experiment, voice recordings were used to attract and capture quetzals). The Random Forest confusion matrix by Bolaños-Sittler et al. 2020 showed the classification of P. mocinno as two subspecies; I wonder how the classification of P. mocinno would be if considered as a single group, combining the vocal data from both subspecies.

Vocal analyses, including playback experiments and quantitative analyses of courtship vocalizations** (not only territorial as presented by Bolaños-Sittler et al. 2020), and genomic data are necessary before reconsidering the split. However, I agree with the idea mentioned in a previous comment, more data might not necessarily support the split of two subspecies.

If the split is passed by the committee, I think that Costa Rican Quetzal is not an accurate name given that P. m. costaricensis is also found in Panama. Northern Resplendent Quetzal and Southern Resplendent Quetzal would be a better option.

*Solórzano, S. & K. Oyama. 2010. Morphometric and Molecular Differentiation between Quetzal Subspecies of Pharomachrus mocinno (Trogoniformes: Trogonidae). Revista de Biología Tropical 58(1):357–71. DOI:10.15517/rbt.v58i1.5215

**Courtship vocalizations are described in Bolaños-Sittler 2019 – Doctoral dissertation (https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-02048769/document). 

NO. I feel a little bad for the research team on this one. The rejection of a previous proposal on this emphasized the lack of vocal data. So, they got a lot of vocal data and analyzed it thoroughly. Yes, the two population’s voices can be distinguished by a multivariate analysis of sonogram parameters. The researchers thought their work was done and they had found sufficient evidence to rank the northern, threatened population of Resplendent Quetzal as a separate species. However, just quantifying vocal differences is not sufficient when the differences are so subtle that such an extensive multivariate analysis is needed. The sonograms look extremely similar to my eye compared to differences among congeners (in contrast to those studies cited as providing similar support), and I don’t think I can hear any difference in the recordings. Do those minor differences make a difference to the birds? That’s the point of analyzing vocal differences. We don’t know without playback trials. The case of the Mionectes proposal in this same proposal set is that the sonograms, by tyrannid standards, differ so strongly that we can be certain from numerous studies of tyrannids that such differences are associated with barriers to gene flow and species-level differences.

The authors did not discuss the general issue of geographic variation in voice beyond lack of it within each of the two subspecies. Many species that no one would suggest actually consist of multiple unrecognized species show minor differences among populations just as one would expect in many phenotypic characters. I suspect that many sedentary, montane species show similar minor geographic differences in vocalizations across the same biogeographic barriers as these quetzals.

Concerning the genetic distance data (which are of little use in my opinion anyway when trying to assign species rank to allotaxa), the differences are not particularly impressive compared to other sedentary tropical birds. Also, in my personal opinion, reciprocal monophyly with respect to a few neutral markers should never be considered an indicator of species rank; for example, such populations are always one sample and rare allele from being falsified. Most of the morphometric characters have to do with body size and reflect a standard Bergmann’s rule pattern of intraspecific variation. An additional very minor point is that if there were one phenotypic character that one would predict might be influenced by environment, it might be plume length of ornamental feathers, e.g. elongation could just be a matter of nutrition.

Anyway, I would encourage the researchers to see whether those subtle differences are recognized by the birds themselves. If so, then the case for separate species rank would be as solid as it can get for allotaxa.

NO. This is a strong proposal and brings important new information to this question, which we reviewed in 2019. The mitochondrial and morphological evidence remains uncompelling, because we expect allopatric populations recognized as subspecies to differ in these respects. (The 3.1% divergence in mtDNA control region does not equate to 3 Myr, which is a geological estimate in Bolaños-Sittler et al. (2019), but I did not pursue this because mtDNA is not a very useful indicator of species limits). The vocalization data are new and are really interesting. But they are clearly not diagnostic, either from PCA results or from the “confusion matrix,” showing a degree of overlap large enough to surmise that vocalizations would not be a sufficiently strong mechanism to result in reproductive isolation. As noted elsewhere, we are generally oversplitting allopatric taxa at the species level, and these two seem to be very good subspecies to me.

NO. I listened to a good number of cuts of both taxa and found it hard to pin down how they are exactly different; both taxa show a good detail of variation within the subspecies. I guess what I would be convinced by is playback experiments that showed that they respond differently. For the English names if split, I also think that Resplendent would be hard to get rid of for either taxon, so Northern and Southern would be appropriate.

NO. A tough call and I very much appreciate that the research team has continued to work on this system. To me, these are allopatric populations with slight phenotypic differences and low-to-modest genetic divergence. In other words, subspecies. Unfortunately, additional playback experiments are not possible given the conservation status of these taxa, but the authors say that P. moccino did respond to vocalizations of P. costaricensis and other trogons in past playback trials. If it were split, I would think that Northern and Southern Resplendent Quetzal would be the way to go. 

NO. I was going to vote for this, but after reading the careful and thoughtful comments of others, those that know the taxa far better than I, agree that a tentative “no” vote is better at this time. 

2022-C-11: Add Pygochelidon cyanoleuca (Blue-and-white Swallow) to the U.S. List

YES. Published, tangible evidence vetted by experts. As noted in the proposal, this long-distance austral migrant was on the “sooner-or-later” list.

YES. The one photo in the NAB article doesn’t show the undertail coverts well but the photos on eBird checklist https://ebird.org/checklist/S71693627 leave little doubt (especially https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/250715281, in which the bird is in a similar position with similar lighting to a Bank Swallow). Also the relative size and tail shape seems to fit only this species.

YES. I don’t see any reason not to accept this based on expert opinions and acceptance by both the Texas committee and ABA CLC.

YES. Photo documentation; vetted and accepted by TOC and ABA CLC. 

YES. Experts confirmed based on photographic evidence. Published record.

YES.  Although none of the images are super sharp, the series shows the necessary field marks to differentiate from other swallow species. The black longer undertail coverts restrict the pool of swallow species. Even if the dark appearance of the coverts is resulting from some weird molt or staining (unlikely), the size (between Bank and Rough-winged), moderate tail fork, dark rump, bluish color of gloss on upperparts, white underparts, active body molt, all fit BAWS and collectively rule out other species, especially Tree Swallow, the only other expected species. The plumage fits the “expected” austral migrant southern populations of subspecies patagonica, which has the dark on the undertail coverts restricted to the longest feathers.

YES. Reasons are outlined in the proposal.

YES. I don’t have enough experience with these taxa to weigh in on the photographic identification, but will accept the majority opinion of those who did so for the ABA, recognizing that it is not certain. 

YES. I largely defer to those experienced with the species who have signed off on this record without reservation. Part of my unease with this record is that all say it is of the subspecies patagonica, not nominate cyanoleuca. This is indicated by the restricted black on the undertail, but I was unable to view photos of the underwing which is distinctly paler in patagonica. One attached photo to the record, but not of the Texas bird, clearly shows extensive black on the undertail and a black underwing like cyanoleuca. So patagonica is larger than cyanoleuca and resident peruviana. Pyle et al. (2021) in their ABA CLC report say in the caption in the one published photo that it was smaller than the nearby Cave Swallow on the wire, yet that’s not obvious to me. It looks comparably sized, probably larger than the Bank Swallow on the wire above. I’m wondering if it was too small for patagonica. Birds of Peru give 12-13.5 cm for patagonica and 11-12 cm for the other two (?) subspecies. I’m voting yes out of deference to those that know the species better, although I have looked carefully at the nominate subspecies in Costa Rica. Amongst other questions I thought about is why is patagonica even considered the same species as the other two subspecies? 

2022-C-12: Add Elaenia parvirostris (Small-billed Elaenia) to the Main List

YES. Published, tangible evidence vetted by experts. This and E. albiceps are two species that I used to know very well, and for the reasons pointed out by almost all the experts, this looks like E. parvirostris to me. As noted in the proposal, this abundant long-distance austral migrant was going to show up sooner or later — the only questions were would it be recognized as such and would the evidence be sufficient to eliminate White-crested.

During trips to Patagonia I became very familiar with chilensis (abundant and the only elaenia where we worked) and much less so with parvirostris. Not that it means much now, but my recollection is that you typically see a lot of crest and often the white stripe on chilensis. I also concur with the experts that this is Small-billed Elaenia. (I gather that the subsequent reports, e.g. the one last fall, are less controversial but wonder why that’s not discussed in the proposal, as it does seem germane. As a committee that is considering adding a long-distance vagrant to the regional avifauna, why are we only dealing with this first record?)

YES. I don’t see any reason not to accept this based on expert opinions and acceptance by the IORC.

YES. Photograph vetted by experts and the IORC. I’m assuming the ABA CLC will reconsider this record, in light of the Gorleri and Areta 2022 paper?

YES. Expert identification based on photographic evidence.

YES. Gorleri & Areta provide a few more useful distinctions that align with identification of the Illinois bird as Small-billed, thereby abating criticisms that we were relying on a single character to claim the ID (white tips to lesser coverts or “3rd wingbar”).

YES. Reasons are outlined in the proposal.

YES. I don’t have enough experience with these taxa to weigh in on the photographic identification, but will accept the majority opinion of those who did so, recognizing that it is not certain. 

YES. I trust the experts and their photos.

YES. What brought me quickly to the conclusion that I was unqualified to write a motion for acceptance of this species, was the statement that elaenias are harder than Empidonax to resolve. I must admit that the photos of the White-crested Elaenia look pretty different from the photos of the Illinois bird, particularly in regards to the face pattern. On this I am deferring to the those that know the contending species of elaenias well. 

2022-C-13: Treat Saxicola rubicola and S. maurus as separate species from S. torquatus (Common Stonechat)

YES. I don’t see any reason to disagree with the WGAC and other global references based on the combination of morphological, genetic, and vocal differences, and given that stonechats are only rare vagrants to the NACC area.

YES. I actually voted for the four-way split in 2021, so I am comfortable with the three-way split proposed here, especially considering this will be adopted by the other checklists and this is an extralimital group.

YES. I vote “yes” but have strong reservations because I see this as a temporary treatment, as I think (as comes through in the proposal) that at least stejnegeri will prove to be a distinct though cryptic species. We don’t know about indicus and przewalskii, both senior names over stejnegeri, so that is a good reason to adopt the three-species treatment for the present so that we can make progress on this complex where we can do so now with confidence.

As an aside, the IOC WBL has recognized stejnegeri as specifically distinct for a long time and probably won’t unrecognize it very soon, and Clements just adopted it last year in their latest update. 

YES. I vote to adopt the three-way split, which is supported by genetic, morphological, and voice data. Future studies should aim to include wider geographic and subspecific representation of this species complex. However, given that stonechats are extralimital in the NACC area, following WGAC is reasonable. 

YES. I support a 3-way split based on documented sympatry in one case and obviously differing vocalizations in another (although just for the record the songs clearly overlap strongly in multivariate space and should not be cited by us as a species-level difference – it doesn’t look to me like they differ any more than one might expect of songs within any species which such a huge distribution). Also, the sympatry of indicus with the similar-looking S. leucurus, as outlined in the proposal, indicates that species-level differences in the genus are possible without strong plumage differences. YES on English names, which are really beyond our control. Too bad the New Brunswick record is not assignable.

YES. I think in this case, following the consensus of global checklist authorities for a group that occurs entirely outside of North America is the right decision. I think this is the best option for this group for the time being, until more work is done to resolve the status of stejnegeri and przewalskii).

YES. Although we will undoubtedly need to return to this to deal with the far eastern taxa, for now it will be good to fall in line with other global entities on these stonechats, which are only marginal in our area.

YES. I voted this way last time, so will add those comments here: “YES to…the conservative three-way split into maurus (incl. stejnegeri), rubicola, and torquatus. I did not find the report of Helstrom and Norvik (2014) very compelling; the phenotypic characters they focused on were not diagnostic, and the anecdotal absence of intermediates gives nothing of sample sizes. From their p. 699 “Field observations during the breeding season by MH in Irkutsk, and in an area to the west, the Tunka Valley and the eastern Sayan Mountains, have revealed no birds with dark markings in the uppertail-coverts…” The depth of the mitochondrial split does nothing for me; it marks time only, not divergent selection. The phenotypic differences are not clearly species-level, and while Opaev et al.’s (2018) summary of “differs noticeably by male song” in a song-learning species is intriguing, there is still a lack of compelling data from where the two forms come together. Good proposal on a complex group.”

YES. I agree that following a global consensus for a largely extralimital taxon is the way to go here. The 3-way split is well supported based on integrative taxonomy and multiple lines of evidence. 

YES. I agree that we are voting for a temporary solution, but until indicus and przewalskii are sampled and assigned to relatives, how can one vote differently given that both have priority over stejnegeri? Regarding vocalizations, I’d like to see recordings from more of the range of both stejnegeri and maurus and then see how they compare to indicus and przewalskii. I’m still puzzled on why the east (stejnegeri) and west (maurus) sides of Lake Baikal would be any sort of geographical barrier given the highly migratory nature of both maurus and stejnegeri and the presumed similarity of habitats from both regions. 

Assuming that stejnegeri and maurus are split at a later time as has been done by other taxonomic bodies, the two Alaska fall specimens will need to be genetically sampled to see if they are of stejnegeri or maurus. Certainly stejnegeri is the proximal subspecies to Alaska and by a few thousand miles, but there are plenty of examples of species that have occurred in western Alaska, and exceptionally elsewhere, that originate from Central Asia (e.g., River Warbler, Red-backed Shrike – twice, plus the hybrid with Turkestan Shrike, Sedge Warbler – twice, and Spotted Flycatcher). Thus S. m. maurus is within the realm of possibility. And this applies particularly to the Grand Manan, New Brunswick, record which is either maurus or stejnegeri. Dan Gibson has told me that Jack Withrow (collections manager at UAM) is likely to approve sending the specimens to any institution where a detailed comparison can be made to both taxa (stejnegeri and maurus) and perhaps they can be genetically studied. Observers in Europe are now following suspected “Siberian Stonechats” around until they defecate so that the poop can be genetically studied (see Dutch Birding 43:132-140). A few records of stejnegeri have been accepted for northwest Europe. 

2022-C-14: Recognize Pseudocolaptes johnsoni as a separate species from P. lawrencii (Buffy Tuftedcheek)

YES. I support this treatment based on plumage and (so far as known) the very different vocalizations, including lack of response to playback. I’m not sure I agree with using the Ridgely and Greenfield names Buffy and Pacific tuftedcheeks because the ranges are not really asymmetrical. (On the pro side, though, the cheek and throat of lawrencii are decidedly buffy, and the names have been in use by IOC WBL since R&G split them.) How about Wing-barred for lawrencii and Choco for johnsoni? Of course SACC would be deciding the E name for the latter.

YES. The vocal differences are striking, and the apparent lack of response to playback suggests that they are reproductively isolated. That, in combination with plumage and genetic differences, support treatment as separate species.

YES. Combination of plumage, vocalizations, and the genetic data that are available point to species status.

YES. Vocal differences, including playback experiments, and plumage coloration support recognizing Pseudocolaptes johnsoni as a separate species from P. lawrencii. Available genetic data suggests that johnsoni and lawrencii might not even be sister species (Harvey et al. 2020; Forcina et al. 2021), but geographically detailed studies are encouraged. 

YES. I agree with the argument presented in the proposal, that the vocal differences, plumage differences, and genetic divergence (which while not clear which species johnsoni is most closely related to, it seems that all three taxa have equivalent levels of divergence with respect to each other) all point to species status for johnsoni.

YES. Plumage and vocal differences, and probable relationships all argue to treat johnsoni as separate from lawrencei.

YES. Collectively, the evidence indicates species status.

YES. Together, the data presented comprise a convincing case that these are separate species. 

YES. Song differences, established with play-back along with plumage differences indicate separate species treatment for P. johnsoni.

2022-C-15: Treat Elaenia cherriei as a separate species from E. fallax (Greater Antillean Elaenia)

YES. This split seems to be as well-justified as in some other elaenias. For the English name, I’d like to suggest Blue Mountain Elaenia, since its range is much like that of the Blue Mountain Vireo. It’s also clear, short, and I think it’s a pleasing name, but I’d like to hear other suggestions as well.

YES. Rheindt et al. (2008) shows a deep genetic split between the two based on analyses of ND2 and a nuclear gene. The split is similar to what is seen in other species in the genus, and Fig. 6 of the paper shows the split as about 3 million years old. Vocalizations seem very different as well; however, no formal analysis has been done. Although we like to see published analyses of these types of data, the vocalizations seem distinct enough that perhaps that isn’t necessary?

NO. For island taxa, large genetic distances between populations are expected, but mean little if the genetic differences have not led to traits that are important in reproductive isolation, like vocalizations or plumage traits. For me, the vocal differences described in the proposal are intriguing, but these need to be analyzed in much greater detail and published. It seems that according to current published knowledge fallax and cherriei are vocally similar (Kirwan 2021), not different, so that makes publishing an analysis showing they are different imperative if we are to split them based on this character.

NO. Most evidence points to separate species rank, but we have no published data on songs. I can’t see how we can treat them as separate species until that is documented, especially with statements in recent literature, right or wrong, concerning lack of evidence that they differ. The proposal’s synopsis of call notes strongly suggests species rank, but even there, as noted in the proposal, there is a question on homologous vocalizations. So, my NO vote is based on maintaining our standards for published evidence. All that it would take for me to vote YES is a short, published paper with sonograms of analogous vocalizations.

As for the genetic data, I regard comparisons of genetic distance data of a few neutral loci as close to useless for delineating taxa at the species/subspecies level. These data may be rough indicators of time-since-divergence, and time of course is very roughly related to speciation, but they should not be used in my opinion to demarcate species vs. subspecies. Also, comparing degree of divergence at neutral loci between insular and continental populations may have an additional problem because insular populations, on average, likely have smaller populations that also more likely go through severe bottlenecks, especially in the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean; thus, AEBE, one could predict greater degrees of divergence at neutral loci just on the basis of lower effective population size.

As for English name, I don’t have any suggestions …. Except to let whoever works on publishing the vocal evidence for species rank work that out.

NO. While the genetic divergence between these taxa is equivalent to or greater than other recently split Elaenia taxa in Rheindt et al. (2008), I agree that using divergence time for assessing differences between island taxa is not an especially useful measure for determining species status. Further, in Harvey et al.’s (2020) analysis of suboscines, a different relationship was recovered for obscura/sordida and chiriquensis/brachyptera than was presented in Rheindt et al. (2008), where neither of these species pairs were recovered as sister, with chiriquensis/brachyptera instead recovered from different clades, unlike the two subspecies of fallax, which were still found as sister.

As for the vocalizations, I agree that they do sound different, but given the lack of formal analyses of these differences, and the uncertainty of what vocalizations are homologous between the two taxa, I am inclined to wait until a rigorous analysis of vocal differences is published. Further, while the differences in the call notes are very distinct, how important are call notes for assessing species-level differences in suboscines? If this proposal does pass and the two taxa are split, I favor the suggested name “Blue Mountain Elaenia” for the taxon on Jamaica.

NO. Genetic distance is a notoriously unreliable indicator of biological species limits (especially mtDNA, which is most of the signal here), and while the vocal differences described suggest species limits are likely involved, the lack of a detailed, published analysis leads me into too much back-of-the-envelope territory to support a taxonomic change at this time. This would be a promising case in which to do follow up research on the suggestion from the Tobias et al. (2010) criteria that these are separate biological species.

NO. As with others, I would like to see a published study of vocal differences – playbacks would be nice too – before considering a split of these taxa. If they are split, I do like Blue Mountain Elaenia.

NO. The deep node in the phylogeny might be comparable to other Elaenia species pairs but constitutes insufficient information to evaluate species limits since processes different than reproductive isolation can be driving it. Although E. f. fallax and E. f. cherriei appear to be vocally distinct, quantitative vocal analyses are in need before making any further decisions. If the split is passed by the committee, I vote for Hispaniolan Elaenia for E. cherriei and Blue Mountain Elaenia for E. fallax.

NO. The evidence is suggestive but not conclusive of separate species status. I am more inclined to consider genetic divergence as a line of evidence for species status under the BSC than other committee members, but in this case I still feel that we need a more in-depth study to call these separate species. The genetic data is pretty much just mtDNA and vocal differences have not been rigorously quantified. Blue Mountain Elaenia does have a nice ring to it though.

NO. It’s hard to disagree with the “wait” approach until the vocalizations are more formally analyzed with a published note. I agree with others that Blue Mountain Elaenia is a perfectly good English name. 

2022-C-16: Treat Mionectes galbinus as a separate species from M. olivaceus (Olive-striped Flycatcher)

YES. This is probably just the start. As Nacho Areta points out, the name galbinus (for the Santa Marta population) would have to be used for the entire South American group, which potentially will lead to changes in the future (for SACC to deal with). However, I think that the names are supposed to be utilitarian and follow the species limits, not drive them. What is the point of stability if the species limits are clearly wrong?

YES. The song differences are incredible. Although it would be great if we could attack the whole group at once, we can at least recognize that olivaceus and hederaceus are distinctly different, and given that they are flycatchers, these differences would certainly be enough to result in reproductive isolation. We will have to worry about hederaceus and the other taxa as more recordings come to light. I really do not like Olive-striped for olivaceus. It is too similar to Olive-streaked (which we can keep until other parts are split off), and they would forever be confused by everyone. How about something like Trilling Flycatcher?

YES. While there is still much that could be learned about this complex, I think it is clear that multiple species are involved, and especially from the perspective of NACC, the split is fairly straightforward, being between olivaceus and the rest of the taxa. In addition to the genetic data that show paraphyly of the species as currently recognized, the vocalizations are very different, especially between olivaceus and the rest of the taxa. In this case, even though more work is needed to resolve the relationships of the South American taxa, I do not think that should prevent us from splitting olivaceus from the rest of the group, and I think further division of the South American taxa is a separate issue. I agree with the proposed English names, using “Olive-streaked Flycatcher” for olivaceus and “Olive-striped Flycatcher” for galbinus.

NO. Although there is evidence of paraphyly of M. olivaceus based on over 2,000 UCE markers, there is a lot still unknown about all the taxa in the system. It is probably better to wait until more populations are sampled from all relevant taxa, especially given that galbinus likely represents multiple taxa. Also, the branch length resulting in paraphyly of M. olivaceus seems short to me. The vocalizations are distinct based on the spectrograms, but I have to admit that I also can’t hear the higher pitched ones.

NO. This is a tough call for me. As noted in the proposal, M. olivaceus is a paraphyletic taxon certainly consisting of multiple species, and Boesman’s preliminary analysis indicates vocal differences consistent with species rank for several populations. But this is a case in which a piecemeal approach seems unwise, especially in the case of galbinushederaceus, because we don’t have genetic data from what would be the taxon in the NACC area (hederaceus) (Harvey et al. included only 3 subspecies of M. olivaceus) and because according to the proposal, galbinus and hederaceus are the most divergent taxa in terms of plumage. Boesman and Harvey et al. have set the stage for a future, thorough analysis that will allow us to sort all this out in terms of taxonomy.

One could make the argument that it is more important to split olivaceus into two species to remove the problem of maintaining a paraphyletic species than it is to wait to sort out all the details, which affect mainly extralimital taxa (South America) anyway. I understand that rationale, and I am convinced from the published sonograms and measurements of the vocal parameters in Boesman (2016) that the NACC area has two species-level taxa (nominate olivaceus vs. hederaceus). I am not opposed to piecemeal taxonomic change, would support it if we were reverting to a prior treatment rather than a novel one, and would support that split if the data behind it were solid. But are they solid? The genetic data for paraphyly are based on Harvey et al. 2020, excerpted below:

Note that only 5 individuals were sampled: 2 M. striaticollis and 3 M. olivaceus. The proposal notes that the 3 olivaceus samples represent 1 sample each of nominate olivaceus, galbinus, and venezuelensis (the latter two the sisters in the tree). That leaves out Boesman’s Santander vocal group* (which evidently cannot be assigned to subspecies yet). But it also leaves out two critical subspecies, including the one from the NACC area: hederaceus. Splitting everything from nominate olivaceus as one species assumes that hederaceus and fasciaticollis group with galbinus and venezuelensis rather than olivaceus. That is the most likely outcome based on biogeography, but it is not a certainty. Hederaceus is the closest taxon (parapatric evidently) to nominate olivaceus. We are assuming hederaceus groups with galbinus because of Boesman’s vocal analysis (more on that later), but the proposal noted that they are at opposite extremes of plumage variation in the complex, so that is a concern. Even fasciaticollis, the most distant taxon from nominate olivaceus, occurs as close as southern Colombia, and cannot be dismissed completely as a potential disjunct, sister taxon to nominate olivaceus.

And then there is another potential problem: there are two additional unsampled named taxa that were subsumed into venezuelensis on the say-so of Fitzpatrick in HBW without any real analysis: pallidus Chapman, 1914 (TL = Buena Vista, 4500 ft., above Villaviscensio, Meta, Colombia), and meridae Zimmer, 1941 (type loc = near Mérida, Venezuela). Mel Traylor, in his Tyrannidae chapter in “Peters” 1979 recognized both subspecies. Traylor gave the range of pallidus as “Upper tropical and lower subtropical zones of Eastern Andes of Magdalena and northern Meta, Colombia” and of meridae as “Subtropical zone of northwestern Venezuela from western Zulia and Falcon to Táchira, and Norte de Santander and Boyacá in adjacent northeastern Colombia.” Note that according to the proposal Norte de Santander is the region from which Boesman described a separate vocal group, and so I strongly suspect Fitzpatrick unjustly sunk meridae; here’s what Fitzpatrick said: “pallidus …. and meridae … are indistinct, intermediate forms within E cline, both treated as synonyms of venezuelensis.” That’s it. It should be noted that Fitzpatrick synonymized a number of tyrannid subspecies based on statements like this, and that some of these synonymized taxa are actually vocally distinct (e.g., Phyllomyias griseiceps, which he treated as monotypic)..

As far as Boesman’s vocal data go, his N for nominate olivaceus was 6 and for hederaceus, 19. So, that looks solid, and just eyeballing the sonograms suggests to me that these are the most different of the vocal groups. Then, for galbinus from the Santa Martas, N=1. On the basis of that one recording, Boesman groups galbinus with our hederaceus. Again eyeballing the sonograms, that single recording does bounce around like hederaceus, but to my eye, the note shapes (lopsided “U”) of galbinus look more like Andean venezuelensis and fasciaticollis than they do those of hederaceus ….Which actually makes more sense biogeographically in terms of relationships. Boesman does not have a specific metric for note shape, by the way.

So, in summary, we would be making a novel taxonomic change based on 5 individual genetic samples that do not include the critical taxon hederaceus, which happens to be the one of the largely South American group represented in the NACC area. Yet we would be assigning the species name galbinus to that species, and hederaceus would be a subspecies of galbinus. And that taxonomy would be based on Boesman’s analysis of a single recording, the sonogram of which to my eye looks more like the Andean taxa, not hederaceus. Further, our case for paraphyly is actually weak with respect to the two taxa in our area because we don’t have a genetic analysis that included hederaceus. Am I the only one queasy about all this? Yes, we’ve got two species in the NACC area, and we can punt the other problems to SACC, but it just seems awfully sloppy and laden with compound assumptions. Imagine the egg-on-face fallout if there is something wrong with our current understanding once we have genetic and vocal data from all 5 (or 7) taxa? I don’t see why we should take that risk.

* my downloaded version of Boesman (2016) states that this vocal group is from Caripe, Venezuela, and thus pertains to venezuelensis, so I’m not sure what’s going on here except that Doug must have access to a more recent revision.

NO. Not yet. I agree with the proposal author that there are likely multiple species involved here, but we need to see additional evidence before making taxonomic changes. The WGAC comments are good regarding the undesirability of introducing new, highly likely taxonomic errors in “galbinus” that cause a period of confusion in the literature while getting part of the situation right with a partial change now. This argues for a more nuanced approach, such as that taken under the Schiffornis turdinus entry in the 1998 Check-list, where we know more species are involved but delay making taxonomic changes until it can be done right.

NO. I agree with the proposal that there are likely multiple species involved and that the vocal differences are striking, but that it is prudent to wait for more data on vocal variation and better population sampling (for both genetics and voice) before making taxonomic decisions on this complex. The WGAC comments also point out the potential for confusion if we adopt a partial split, so I think it’s better to hold off for now.

NO. There are almost certainly multiple species involved in M. olivaceus, but there is very incomplete sampling of both genetic material and vocalizations. The fact that the tie (either genetically or vocally) between hederaceus and galbinus is very poorly established bothers me given that galbinus is the name-bearing taxon for a two way split, but hederaceus is the subspecies closest geographically to olivaceus. As others have noted this case bears a strong resemblance to the case of Schiffornis turdinus, where the fact of multiple species was known for a number of years, but both NACC and SACC waited for more data to be brought to bear on the problem. I think we should adopt such an approach to ensure that we get this right.

NO. The phylogeny by Harvey et al. (2020) shows that olivaceus is paraphyletic and clearly sets the stage for future studies of the species complex olivaceusstriaticollis. However, treating galbinus as a separate species from olivaceus without thorough population geographic sampling, in addition to genetic and vocal analyses, would be premature. 

NO. I agree with others that a more comprehensive study is needed. I am pretty sure there are multiple species within this complex, but this seems premature to split based on the limited data we have currently available. A great dissertation topic for some enterprising grad student out there!

NO. A weak no following the recommendation in the motion. I’m tempted to split the two in the NACC area, but glanced at the range map for the species in Vallely and Dyer in their Birds of Central America and found no breaks in the range, or put another way the range of olivaceous from Costa Rica and western Panama is continuous with hederaceus from Veraguas to NC and W Colombia to SW Ecuador. Are these two sympatric, allopatric, or parapatric? I’m thinking they are more likely allopatric, or at least narrowly so, but that’s not what the map shows and there is no detail on this in the motion. This leads me to vote no for now, or at least want more information. I can appreciate wanting a more detailed analysis of the vocalizations from throughout the range, but NACC doesn’t always do this. I’m thinking of Loxia and just recently Sturnella. 

2022-C-17: Treat Canachites franklinii as a separate species from Canachites canadensis (Spruce Grouse)

NO. Reasons are stated in the proposal. I’m actually a bit sad about this one.

NO. There is evidence of extensive intergradation of plumage; therefore, it is not justified to split these based on the biological species concept.

NO. I don’t support this for all the reasons outlined in the proposal. Perhaps a quantitative analysis of the contact zone would show that pure parental phenotypes predominate there, but I think the photos in the proposal, confirming Jewett et al.’s statements, forces the burden-of-proof on the two-species position that there is assortative mating and reduced gene flow.

As for the similarities between this and the Blue Grouse split, the genetic distances and biogeography might be similar but recall that the Dusky and Sooty grouse have differently colored air sacs on their necks, and slightly different songs, both of which may be barriers to free gene flow. If the genes that controlled those meaningful features could be measured instead of just a few neutral loci, the outcome of the comparative genetic distances data might look very different. The two blue grouse species also differ in downy young plumages. Likewise, the genetic distance between the two prairie-chickens may again be similar to that between the two spruce grouse taxa, BUT air sacs of the two prairie-chickens are differently colored and the differences in their lekking vocalizations can be heard a half-mile away. This is why I keep hammering away on the weak significance of comparative genetic distance data.

NO. I agree with the recommendation in the proposal that a split is not justified at this time due to the apparent extensive intergradation. It would be nice to see a comprehensive phylogeographic analysis combined with a quantitative study of the contact zone (plumage, genomics, acoustics).

NO. Extensive introgression suggested by plumage occurs in a large geographic area. Further research on genetics, displays, vocalizations, and plumage, both in allopatry and in the contact zone, might help to understand Canachites variation.

NO. I still think these could be valid species, but the current evidence certainly does not seem strong enough to support the split at this time. I hope detailed genetic analyses are in the works, as I am very curious to see how the variation in phenotype matches up with genetic structure. 

NO. I would not be surprised if a thorough analysis shows that these are separate species, but given what we know now (vast introgression, uncertainty about displays, little genetic or phylogeographic data), I think it is best to wait. Cannot really compare it to Dendrapagus until equal analyses are completed.

NO. I agree with the proposal’s author that evidence is insufficient at this time to warrant elevation to full species. Two observations: Tympanuchus grouse are lekking species in which sexual selection via highly skewed male mating success has almost certainly driven speciation much more rapidly than “normal” among the grouse. So I don’t consider them to be a useful basis for a genetic distance yardstick (much as I don’t like using genetic distance as an important species limits indicator). Second, when this Canachites complex is studied more thoroughly genetically, we’re likely to find a lot of gene flow going on.

NO. I agree with the proposal that the introgression suggested from plumage combined with the lack of genetic data do not support a split at this time.

NO. More information is needed on the biology of both species in respect to each other, but the intermediate characters shown by many over a large geographic area should put the brakes on any split until there is additional compelling data. 

2022-C-18: Modify the linear sequence of genera in the tribe Mergini, adjusting the placements of (a) Camptorhynchus labradorius (Labrador Duck), (b) Clangula hyemalis (Long-tailed Duck), and (c) Histrionicus histrionicus (Harlequin Duck)

YES. (a) These are the best available data for the relationships of Camptorhynchus, so our linear sequence should reflect that. Tangentially, sister relationship to Steller’s Eider makes some post-hoc sense in terms of plumage: both have mostly white heads with dark collars and dark plumage somewhere on top of head (as noted obtusely by Buckner et al.). Also tangentially, note that Livezey’s conclusion that Camptorhynchus was close to Melanitta was wrong — yet another example (among dozens) of the flaws of cladistic analysis of morphological characters as reflecting phylogeny rather than selection-influenced adaptive morphology. Buckner et al. also noted similarities in bill morphology between Camptorhynchus, Polysticta, and Clangula, thus suggesting that these may not have been coded properly by Livezey. (b-c) Tough call. I came close to voting “no” on this based on the reservations mentioned in the proposal about basing this on a mtDNA gene tree. However, I would gamble that the placement of Clangula in the Buckner et al. tree is correct because the similarities in bill morphology noted by Buckner et al., and some vague plumage similarities that hint that the genetic data might be ok. At least it is published data — I have no idea what our current sequence is based on other than historical momentum.

YES. (a) This seems to be the best-supported data available. (b-c) Reasons are given in the proposal, with the reservations mentioned therein.

YES. The whole mitogenome sequences are the best available data and they support these changes in linear sequence.

YES. Linear sequence needs to be modified based on new data. I’m fine with moving all of these. The current sequence is based in part on mtDNA sequences. Given that the new data are entire mtDNA genomes, this new arrangement will probably be better. Seems to make sense based on morphology as well.

YES. Reasons are presented in the proposal.

YES. Update linear sequences as new data is generated. Mitogenomes are a single locus, but in this case I trust that it has almost certainly captured the relationships among the taxa involved.

YES (a). Phylogeny based on mitogenome of a well-sampled set of taxa, including the extinct species Camptorhynchus labradorius, supports the move of the Labrador Duck on the linear sequence. NO (b-c). Wait for a genomic phylogeny of the extant species and then revise the linear sequence of Anatidae as a whole.

YES (a). NO (b-c). The mtDNA evidence in this case is sufficient to be very likely correct for the Labrador Duck, but is less clear with Clangula and Histrionicus. We can wait on those and other Anatidae for the forthcoming Buckner et al. UCE study.

YES (a). I agree with the placement of the Labrador Duck. NO (b-c). I favor awaiting a full genomic study of the extant species. 

NO. Although the placement of Camptorhynchus with Polystiicta and those two as sister to a clade containing Somateria is well supported, other nodes are not well supported within this subfamily. With a new analysis including UCEs on the near horizon, it seems prudent to wait for that publication so that we don’t have to make changes only to change them again soon thereafter.