Proposal (420) to South American Classification Committee
Separate Pseudocolopteryx flaviventris into two species
Effect on South American CL: this proposal would add a new species to our list, Pseudocolopteryx citreola.
Background: There is almost no background on this; much of it is new information. However, it bears noting that there are four species presently in the genus Pseudocolopteryx. On the whole they are a group with their center of abundance and diversity in the southern cone, Argentina specifically. All are yellow below, and either brownish, greenish, or olive above. Plumage differences among species are slight, but vocally all can be distinguished (i.e. Bostwick & Zyskowski 2001). On the whole, taxonomy in this group has been stable - no great upheavals or controversies have occurred.
One other member of the genus was described from central Chile by Landbeck (1864), as Arundinicola citreola. Wetmore (1926) mentioned and described citreola from Argentina as well, including its voice. Later Hellmayr (1927) subsumed citreola into flaviventris based on similarity in plumage and measurements, although citreola averages larger and longer-winged than flaviventris. He did not give it subspecies status; the name essentially was then lost in the literature and never heard from again.
New information: In the late 80s Bret Whitney was scouting for an upcoming birding tour to Chile when he heard and tracked down an unknown song near Renaico, in the Bio-Bio Region. The bird was recorded and observed and appeared to be a Pseudocolopteryx, nearly identical to flaviventris but with a rather different song. This original recording was poor, but diagnostic, and for many years was the only recording known of this population. Later Guillermo Egli (2002) published a superb recording, which matches exactly the Renaico bird. This second recording was made in the Valparaiso Region at the mouth of the Maipo River. Later, Jaramillo was able to see and record this song type both at the Renaico site, as well as the Maipo River site, in addition to the Santa Inez marsh nearer to Santiago. Santa Inez is approximately 30 km from the type locality of citreola along the Mapocho River in the Metropolitan region. All Chilean birds sound exactly the same and are quite different from true flaviventris found in E. Argentina, Uruguay, and S. Brazil (see below).
Abalos and Areta (2009) moved the discussion further. They published sonograms of citreola from Chile and Argentina and compared them to those of various other Pseudocolopteryx, including flaviventris from E. Argentina. They recorded 20 individuals from Mendoza, Rio Negro, and Neuquén, all in W. Argentina. They also performed 17 crossed playback experiments. They confirmed that citreola is a cryptic species with a different song than that of flaviventris, and that it deserves status as a biological species separate from flaviventris. Their results show the following:
1) Birds from W. Argentina match the vocalizations of Chilean citreola.
2) In the breeding season it is found from Mendoza and Rio Negro south to Neuquén. It is absent from these areas in winter.
3) An October record from Salta is of citreola (based on song), but could be of a southbound migrant.
4) They noted a recent record during Austral winter from Bolivia. This record pertained to a singing bird, so could be assigned to the vocal type of citreola.
5) The voice of citreola can been described as “tic tic tic tic tic tirik-tirik” or “tick tick tick tick-tick-tick-you.” Below are sonograms published in Abalos and Areta (2009), the top is the Egli recording from Chile, and the three lower ones are from Mendoza, Argentina.
6) The voice of citreola is distinctive and unlike that of any other Pseudocolopteryx, including flaviventris. Below are published sonograms in Abalos and Areta (2009) of (from top to bottom) citreola, flaviventris, dinelliana, acutipennis and sclateri. Although visually most similar to flaviventris, citreola’s introductory notes are very similar to those of dinelliana, although the important terminal flourish is quite different.
7) The singing behavior of citreola differs from that of flaviventris, with up-and-down mechanical head movements in citreola, although there are both up-and-down and side-to-side rhythmical movements done by flaviventris.
8) In playback experiments citreola always ignored songs of flaviventris, whereas they always strongly responding to songs of citreola. Similarly flaviventris never responded to playback of citreola songs, whereas they strongly responded to flaviventris songs. Samples were small, but the response was quite clear.
9) In Argentina the Monte Desert essentially separates the breeding distribution of citreola in the west and flaviventris in the east. They have allopatric breeding distributions, at least based on present data.
Some additional personal notes: I have examined and measured the type specimen in New York (Landbeck’s specimen), and it is essentially like flaviventris but a bit longer-winged, perhaps brighter yellow below. and with a stronger cinnamon tone on the crown. There is essentially no reliable way to separate citreola and flaviventris based on specimens other than the longer wing, although doubtless there will be overlap in a larger series. The real difference is the voice.
Also, in Chile the distribution of this bird is in the central zone from Santiago south to Valdivia, and it is nowhere common. Its highest density appears to be near the city of Chillan. All records are from spring – summer, it appears to leave Chile during the winter.
English Names: There is no English name for citreola. In Abalos and Areta they used the moniker “Doradito Limón” or Lemon Doradito, based on the scientific name. The Chilean name for the bird is the imaginative “Pajaro Amarillo” or Yellow Bird. Unfortunately lemon or yellow are descriptors that fit all Pseudocolopteryx and are therefore not that informative. Given that a new name is needed, perhaps it is best to base it on the most distinctive aspect of the bird, its song. In the spirit of many species of Cisticola, I propose this bird’s English name be “Ticking Doradito.” The song does indeed clearly sound like a series of tick notes that speed up at the end. This is a better descriptor of the song than the name of flaviventris, which hardly warbles. One could also opt for the patronym Landbeck’s Doradito, although I find this less colorful and also less useful than “Ticking Doradito.” I realize this name may sound odd, but it is distinctive, short and unique.
Recommendation: I propose that the name citreola be dusted off and brought back to life, and it be given to a species level taxon breeding in Chile and W, Argentina and wintering at least to Bolivia – Pseudocolopteryx citreola, the Ticking Doradito.
Abalos, R. & J. I. Areta. 2009, Historia Natural y vocalizaciones del doradito limón (Pseudocolopteryx cf. citreola) en Argentina. Orn. Neotrop. 20: 215–230
Bostwick, K. S., and K. Zyskowski. 2001. Mechanical sounds and sexual dimorphism in the Crested Doradito (Tyrannidae: Pseudocolopteryx sclateri). Condor 103:861-865.
Egli, G. 2002. Voces de las aves chilenas. UNORCH, Santiago de Chile.
Hellmayr, C. E. 1927. Catalogue of birds of the Americas and the adjacent islands in Field Museum of Natural History. Initiated by Charles B. Cory, continued by Charles E. Hellmayr. part 5. Tyrannidae
Landbeck, L. 1864. Contribuciones a la Ornitología de Chile. An. Univ. Chile 24: 336–348.
Wetmore, A. 1926. Observations on the birds of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile. Bull. U.S. Natl. Mus. 133: 1–448.
Comments from Robbins: “YES. The vocal data clearly support recognition of citreola as a species and I like Alvaro’s English name suggestion.”
Comments from Bret Whitney: “Yes. I first recorded this bird on 7 Nov 1986, and immediately recognized it as very different from P. flaviventris. It showed no interest in a recording of flaviventris from Buenos Aires province. Looking into it, I dug up the name citreola, and called attention to its validity to numerous ornithologists over the years. The work has now been done and its range more clearly defined, so I would definitely vote to recognize citreola at the species level. In my opinion, it is the most endangered species in the Tyrannidae. Ticking Doradito sounds fine for an English name though they all “tick” to one degree or another. Another name to consider might be Neglected Doradito; hopefully the past tense will become ever more appropriate and poignant as it receives more attention from this point forward. Even if it one day becomes the “protected doradito”, it remains that the big story was that it was neglected for so long before we stepped up. doradito desatendido, yeah.”
Comments from Stiles: “YES. All the evidence points to species status for citreola. “Ticking Doradito” seems OK as an English name – I hesitate to go for “Neglected” or something similar because there are probably a fair number of similar cases waiting for attention. This is the sort of analysis we really need to sort out such cases, and “neglect” or no, it was worth waiting for!”
Comments from Nores: “YES. Sus voces diferentes muestran claramente de que se trata de dos especies distintas, a pesar de su parecido. Especialmente importante considero los experimentos de playback realizados por Abalos y Areta (2009).”
Comments from Schulenberg: “YES to recognize citreola as a species. I also vote in favor of "Ticking Doradito" was the English name.”
Comments from Remsen: “YES. Nice work documenting species rank – all data are consistent with treatment as a separate species. “Ticking Doradito” is fine with me.”