Proposal (653) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name “Brush-Finch” to “Brushfinch”


This proposal addresses a minor item with respect to consistency in our policy on hyphenation.  Our footnote explains the situation:


47a. The placement of the former Buarremon in Arremon creates a problem with the English names in that hyphenated “Brush-Finch” now used in two genera, Atlapetes and Arremon, with most species in the latter called “Sparrow” or “Finch.”  Thus, the hyphen is misleading with respect to relationships, and this needs fixing.  SACC proposal needed.

Our first reaction was to fix this by changing “Brush-Finch” to “Brush Finch”, but this means that these birds would be indexed under “Finch”, and they are not really “finches” sensu Fringillidae (not that this problem isn’t found elsewhere, e.g., A. castaneiceps = Olive Finch).  Removing the hyphen and making the name a single word “Brushfinch” removes this problem.  And the planet will continue to rotate on its axis.


Van Remsen and Tom Schulenberg, October 2014




Comments from Stiles: “NO. Personally, I am not terribly disturbed by simply using “Finch” without the “Brush” and restricting the name “Brush-Finch” to Atlapetes, where it is most appropriate.  So many “finch-billed” species around the world are called “finches” that this name has effectively lost any phylogenetic significance, and the same could be said for “sparrow”.  At least in New World usage, things called sparrows are generally smaller than those called finches, so having both names in Arremon does not upset me.


Response from Remsen: “Gary, interesting idea, but I would rather avoid that degree of instability - removal of hyphens would cause less confusion, in my opinion.  Also, I like the idea of a “brushfinch” ecomorph that more unites most members of the broader lineage, all built on similar body plans.  Speaking of which, if this one passes, I’m tempted to do some name-meddling in a subsequent proposal to change Olive Finch to Olive Brushfinch to further reflect the relationships of former Lysurus; this clearly contradictory to my concerns for stability, but it would then leave the oddball Tanager Finch as the only true member of Emberizidae to be called a “Finch.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES.  I guess that I don’t feel strongly about this one way or the other, but since we have to do get rid of the hyphenated “Brush-Finch” for a bunch of species no matter what, then I think this is probably the best solution.”


Comments from Robbins: “It doesn’t matter to me.  Whatever the majority decides.”


Comments from Cadena: “I normally do not vote or comment on English names, but here I have to wonder: what are English names for? I guess they are for verbal communication in day-to-day language between birders and the public at large. Brush-finch and brushfinch sound exactly the same when spoken, no? In addition, I really see no problem in having brush-finches in different genera, just as we have, say, flycatchers scattered all over the Tyrannidae phylogeny. I would think that English names need not reflect phylogeny - that's where scientific names come in. Anyway, not that I care much, I am happy with whatever the committee decides.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES. I do like the fact that it is pronounced the same as Brush-Finch, that helps! Overall it seems like a change with very little down side, and some upside.”