Proposal (#298) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Cnipodectes to Twistwing (II)



In Proposal no. 184 (which I posted in October 2005), a majority of SACC members voted in favour of changing the name of Cnipodectes subbrunneus from Brownish Flycatcher to Brownish Twistwing (6-4). However, due to SACC voting rules, the proposal was rejected as not achieving 7 votes. Interestingly, following committee member changes and the fact that native Spanish or Portuguese speaking members no longer vote on English names, if everyone who voted on the previous proposal and who still has a vote maintains their vote on proposal 184, this one will now pass.

Committee membership changes and gripes about the SACC voting system are not good reasons for a new proposal to be considered. There are however important reasons to reconsider this issue. First, a new Cnipodectes has been described from Peru (Proposal 297). It would be sensible to unite these two congeners under the English name "Twistwing", given that the two species share similarly modified primaries. Secondly, despite SACC's approach and a willingness on the part of the ornithological community generally to follow its recommendations, several authors of key publications have made a point of not following SACC on the English name for Cnipodectes: (i) Restall et al. 2006 Birds of Northern South America purported to use SACC recommendations for English names throughout but, without drawing attention to the point, used "Twistwing" for Cnipodectes; (ii) Salaman et al. 2007 Checklist of Birds of Colombia followed SACC taxonomy and nomenclature on all but a short list of specified issues, including usage of "Twistwing"; and (iii) the Auk allowed Lane et al. (2007) to use "Twistwing" in assigning an English name for the new Cnipodectes species, despite the AOU's own checklist committee having rejected the name for the genus.

In summary, SACC's decision in Proposal 184 was supported only by a minority of committee members; and other persons have gone out of their way to avoid SACC's recommendation. Reasons of principle and usage for changing the name for Cnipodectes were set out in Proposal 184. The SACC use of "Flycatcher" is destabilising in the face of widespread use of the name "Twistwing" and would create a novel name for a recently described species, another avoidable negative outcome. I recommend a yes vote, again.



Thomas Donegan August 2007


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Comments from Remsen: "YES. In spite of the numerous brilliant and cogent reasons I presented previously for retaining the cherished and charismatic name Brownish Flycatcher for C. subbrunneus, I recognize that the cutesy name Twistwing is here to stay. Add to the list of traitorous capitulators: J. Fitzpatrick et al. in HBW, as well as the devious and cunning Dan Lane, whose preferred name Rufous Twistwing for C. superrufus leaves Rufous Flycatcher 'preoccupied' by Myiarchus semirufus. Wounded and sulking, I remain coiled like spring ready to retaliate with a barrage of NO votes on subsequent proposals."

Comments from Stiles: "YES. I liked "Twistwing" before and I like it now!"

Comments from Stotz: "YES. I hate to vote for Twistwing, having voting against it in the past, but I guess I don't see a clear alternative.  The other option would be to create a new name for the new species of Cnipodectes (the Lane et al Flycatcher or the Status Quo Flycatcher?), which doesn't do much to maintain stability."

Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - I think Twistwing is an absolutely fantastic name. The issue of Rufous Flycatcher being preoccupied also clarifies this choice."

Comments from Robbins: "YES. I favored "twistwing" the first go around. Perhaps we should now revisit the English name for Neopipo, and get it right this time by calling it Cinnamon Tyrant!"

Comments from Zimmer: "YES. I liked (and voted for) "Twistwing" the first time around for subbrunneus, and nothing since has changed my mind. The preoccupation of "Rufous Flycatcher" by Myiarchus semirufus provides even further ammunition for this change. I congratulate "the devious and cunning Dan Lane" for engineering this coup, although the image of a "wounded and sulking" Van Remsen "coiled like a spring ready to retaliate" makes for a sufficiently scary scenario for future English name proposals."