Proposal (#304) to South American Classification Committee

Change English name of Goethalsia bella to "Rufous-cheeked Hummingbird"


This proposal change the current SACC name, "Pirre Hummingbird" for Goethalsia bella to the newer "Rufous-cheeked Hummingbird", used by AOU (1983,1998), Ridgely & Gwynne (1989) and Sibley & Monroe (1990). I don't know who coined the latter name, but it seems to me to represent the epitome of useless tinkering with English names and an entirely unnecessary attempt to impose an Eisenmann-type "descriptive" name. On the one hand, "Pirre Hummingbird" is a perfectly correct toponym taken from the type locality; the species has a very limited geographical range including only 3-4 isolated massifs in the Darién region of Panamá and the border with Colombia: use of toponyms in such cases is a useful indicator of a very restricted distribution, and the fact that the bird also occurs on a few adjacent mountains does not detract from this. On the other hand, "Rufous-cheeked" is a singularly poor descriptor; the anterior forehead, lores and chin are rufous (or better, chestnut) but not the cheeks, thus the name is decidedly misleading. (The general effect is that of a bird that has just taken a drink from a cup of cocoa). Hence, I see no reason to perpetuate a poor descriptor with an established and adequate toponym already in place, and advocate the use of "Pirre Hummingbird" for Goethalsia bella, namely a NO vote. A YES would be in favor of use of "Rufous-cheeked".

F. Gary Stiles, August 2007



Comments from Remsen: "NO. As Gary noted, yet another example of counterproductive name-meddling. If this doesn't pass, I'll submit proposal to NACC to change to Pirre Hummingbird."

Comments from Stotz: "NO. It seems like Pirre has history on its side as well as pointing to the narrow range.  Plus it is a far more distinctive and memorable name."

Comments from Jaramillo: "NO - Pirre Hummingbird is a great name, with history!"

Comments from Robbins: "NO. Pirre Hummingbird is quite appropriate for this range-restricted species, and as Gary points out, "Rufous-cheeked" is not an accurate descriptor."

Comments from Zimmer: "NO. "Pirre Hummingbird" is a far better name, and this fits with my general feeling that toponyms for range-restricted species are more informative and more memorable than most attempts at morphologically descriptive names."