Proposal (543) to South American Classification Committee

 

 

English names for Schiffornis (genus and species)

 

We now have had a number of suggestions from various people on the names for both the genus Schiffornis and the various species that we’ve accepted to recognize. Now it’s time to bite the bullet and decide. So, I have tried to pull together the various names proposed and run them up the proverbial flagpole.  I thank all who have weighed in with suggestions on what is indeed a pretty inhospitable group (of birds, that is) for which to find useful and distinctive names! OK, here goes …

 

I.  On a name for the group:

 

         1. Schiffornis –has the advantage of having been used (at least recently) and being evocative (anyone knowing Neotropical birds immediately pictures an undistinguished brown bird with a loud, whistling voice). We already have many generic names being used as English names: Tityra, Vireo etc. etc. Whether it’s a patronym or whether Schiff was an important ornithologist are really irrelevant; the object of a name is to distinguish a group.

 

         2. Mourner – has also been used, but is not distinctive (already in use for two other genera of suboscines, and the voices of all Schiffornis species are arguably the least mournful of the lot.

 

         3. Whistling-bird (Donegan)- appropriate, but these are hardly the only birds that whistle, in addition to which such a name simply sounds silly (at least, to my perhaps persnickety aesthetic sense).  “Whistler” would at least sound relatively decent, but is also in use for another group (at the family level, at least in some classifications) so is best not considered.

 

My recommendation: 1, Schiffornis.

 

[Note from Remsen: We previously dealt with this issue and voted to use Schiffornis over Mourner – see Proposal 194.  But no harm in reconsidering this]

 

II.  Names for the species- here we have a rather wide range of choices for most species, so I suggest that we weigh our first, second and third choices as 3,2 and 1 points and at the bitter end, simply go with the name with the most points).  If we wind up with a tie for first place, have a second round with the two names with the highest scores to choose.

 

A.  veraepacis

 

         1.  Brown (from Ridgway 1907 and Hellmayr 1929, and used by Nyári)- arguably the worst name, as it is not distinctive (especially with respect to stenorhyncha, with which it is sympatric in at least two areas and is appreciably “browner”, hence this name could actually impede the correct identification of specimens.

         2. Olive (Stiles) – useful with respect to stenorhyncha but, as Van notes, could cause confusion with respect to olivacea, and Thomas notes that it isn’t really “olive” but olive-brown, and “olive-brown” sounds pretty cumbersome to my ear.

         3. Western (Donegan) – this is perhaps the best name as it is appropriate for South America, and Central America is in fact to the west of most of South America.

         4.  Northern (Hilty) – seems best for Central America but not for South America, in that this species’ range extends south to Ecuador (and south of that of stenorhyncha).

 

My choices: Western (3 points), Olive (2, or 1 as I don’t like either Northern or Brown and recognize the problems with Olive).

 

B. stenorhyncha

 

         1.  Slender-billed (from Hellmayr 1929 and used by Nyári)- goes with the Latin name, but neither distinctive (amazonum has a narrower bill) nor useful in the field.

         2. Brownish (Stiles) – useful with respect to veraepacis but not distinctive, as all Schiffornis are “brownish”.

         3.  Russet-winged [was Rufous-winged] (Stiles) – although the wings are hardly a bright rufous, they are definitely more rufescent than the body plumage, and this is distinctive with respect to at least amazonum, which is the form most similar in plumage at least in Colombia, where the ranges of the two approach most closely. (I have not seen any of the eastern races of turdina so cannot say whether this character holds throughout its range).

         4.  Pale-bellied (Stiles)- in reality the gray belly in adults is not consistently paler than that of amazonum, but it does contrast more sharply with the brown of the breast; again, I don’t know if this holds for the eastern races of turdina.

         5. Russet (already in use in Ridgway 1907) – short and convenient; my only caveat is that probably most people (like me) don’t know exactly what shade of brown is “russet”.

 

My choices: Rufous-winged (3), Russet (2), Pale-bellied (1).

 

C. olivacea

 

         1. Olivaceous (already in use in Hellmayr 1929) – goes with the Latin name and has been used before, but not wholly distinctive.  Matches scientific name.

         2. Guianan (Stiles)- accurately describes the species’ range, restricted to the Guianan Shield where it is the only Schiffornis, hence distinctive as well and useful in the field.

         3. Ridgway’s (Donegan) – patronym for describer.

 

My choices: Guianan (3), Olivaceous (1).

 

D. aenea

 

         1.  Foothill (Nyári)– should be no problem, as it appears to be the only candidate and is appropriate with respect to the neighboring, lowland turdina.  Hence, it gets my 3 points.

         2. Zimmer’s (Donegan) - patronym for describer.

 

E. turdina

 

         1. Thrush-like – as presently constituted, it is the species with the widest range and could qualify for use; however, this name was coined when it was classified as a manakin.  While it was arguably the most “thrush-like” among the manakins, all Schiffornis are equally (and not very) “thrush-like”, hence this name loses most of its practicality.  Also, I agree with Van that we should reserve this name for use when and if the whole complex is reunited as a single species, which seems most unlikely with the evidence as it now stands.

         2. Amazonian (Stiles?)- appropriate in that the vast majority of its range  lies in the Amazon basin; however, this is the species most likely to suffer further splitting, so it might be best to reserve this name for the group that would include amazonum, the most widespread form, when and if the split is made.  Used by Hellmayr (1929) but for amazonus only.

         3.  Eastern (Stiles?)– this name is appropriate in that its range lies to the east of the other species in this complex with the partial exception of olivacea, which is well characterized with Guianan and should cause no confusion.   Again, if turdina were to be further split, it might still be appropriate for the non-amazonum group – but let’s worry about this when the time comes!

         4.  Tetrasyllabic (Donegan)- seems appropriate if not wholly distinctive, but sounds horrible to my persnickety ear, and certainly would not help in the museum.

        

 

(5.) Note: although cute, I don’t think that “Schiff’s Schiffornis” merits serious consideration – sorry, Van!

 

 

My choices: Eastern (3), Amazonian (2), Tetrasyllabic (1).

 

 

I hope I haven’t left out any (serious) alternatives among the welter of suggestions, and assigned “authorship” correctly! 

 

Gary Stiles, September 2012

 

 

Note from Remsen: Below is the score sheet I set up to keep track of all this.  This is a first try at a system like this, so I’m sure there are unforeseen problems.  If you really do not think a name is acceptable, give it a zero.  Despite Gary’s brutal dismissal of my beloved Schiff’s Schiffornis, I have used the powerful authority of my position to reinstate it into the candidate list.  If anyone has any “write-in” candidates, including anyone out there in the world who is interested, let me know. 

 

We can insert the usual passionate and emotive comments as usual below the table.

 

By the way, thanks to Gary for “volunteering” to do this.  Now, his impact on Neotropical ornithology has reached its zenith.

 

 

I

AJ

VR

MR

GS

DS

KZ

SH

MP

TS

SUM

Schiffornis

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

Mourner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whistling-bird

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

II.A. veraepacis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown

 

0

 

0

0

3

 

0

2

5

Olive

 

0

 

1

0

 

 

0

1

2

Western

3

3

 

3

2

3

1

2

1

18

Northern

 

1

3

 

3

 

 

1

3

11

Hesperian

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

3

II.B. stenorhyncha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slender-billed

 

0

3

 

2

 

1

0

 

6

Brownish

 

 

 

 

0

 

 

0

 

0

Russet-winged

3

3

 

3

1

 

 

0

1

11

Pale-bellied

 

 

 

1

1

3

 

1

3

9

Russet

 

2

 

2

0

2

 

0

2

8

Interjacene

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

3

II.C. olivacea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olivaceous

 

3

 

1

1

1

 

1

2

9

Guianan

3

 

3

3

3

3

3

0

3

21

Guyana

 

1

 

2

 

 

 

3

 

6

Ridgway’s

 

1

 

 

 

2

 

 

1

4

II.D. aenea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foothill

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

0

3

24

Bronze/Bronzy

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

4

Zimmer’s

 

1

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

3

II.E. turdina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thrush-like

 

0

 

 

0

 

 

1

 

1

Amazonian

 

 

 

2

0

2

 

1

 

5

Eastern

 

1

3

3

3

3

1

2

 

16

Tetrasyllabic

 

0

 

1

1

 

1

0

 

3

Brazilian

 

2

 

 

 

 

1

2.5

 

5.5

Brown-winged

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

4

Four-whistle

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

3

Schiff’s

 

24

 

0

-23

 

 

1

 

1

 

 

 

Comments from Stotz:

 

A. veraepacis: Northern 3, Western 2, 0 for the other 2 names

I prefer Northern to Western because this species extends far to the north of any other species.  I recognize that it also extends west of any other species, but I think the northern extension is much clearer to most people.  I give zero to Brown and Olive because all of the birds are some version of brown, olive-brown, brownish-olive or olive.  It is hard to imagine that Brown or Olive would help anybody to identify these birds.  I am willing to consider those names if they are a translation of the scientific name, but not as de novo creations.

 

B. stenorhyncha:  Slender-billed 2, Pale-bellied 1, Rufous-winged 1 others 0

No good name, it seems to me.  I go for Narrow-billed as at least being consistent with the scientific name.  I avoid Brownish and Russet because I can't see that there is any value in using names referring to general body tone because the variation in these taxa is just so subtle.  Pale-bellied and Rufous-winged are a little better, except that the belly is not that pale and the wings are well short of rufous.  If I have to go 3-2-1, it would be Narrow-billed 3, Pale-bellied 2, Rufous-winged 1.

 

C:  Guianan 3, Olivaceous 1  

Not completely dismissing Olivaceous because it goes with the scientific name, but again a useless name in a group where arguably they are all olivaceous.  Guianan is a good distinctive name.

 

E. turdina:  Eastern 3, Tetrasyllabic 1, Amazonian 0, Thrush-like 0, Schiff's -23.

Eastern is I think easily the best name.  Amazonian would be a poor choice given that nominate turdina is in the Atlantic Forest.  Thrush-like would be confusing since you couldn't tell whether you were referring to S. turdina as one of 5 species or as including all of the other taxa.

 

Comments from Remsen:

“A. Concerning veraepacis, “Brown” likely derives from when thought to be a manakin, and so this worked well compared to all other Middle American/Trans-Andean manakins, so this is somewhat anachronistic.

C. Concerning olivacea, Olivaceous may not be diagnostic but it is accurate (unlike Slender-billed), and I like the historical continuity, and for some, the match with the scientific name is nice.  Don’t we have enough “Guianan Somethings” already?”

E. Concerning turdina, I doubt Tetrasyllabic stands a chance, but regardless, the sonograms in Nyári (2007) indicate 3 syllables, not 4 – it’s just that the terminal one is inflected – so I do not think it is an accurate name anyway.”

 

Comments from Pearman:

Just to stop that Schiffornis whistling in my sleep, here are my preliminary votes, comments and various NEW name suggestions. In particular I believe that more input is needed from the Guianas if anyone can help out there.  

 

A. veraepacis:

Northern 1, Western 2, Brown 0, Olive 0

The shades of brown and olive between the four taxa involved in this group differ to the extent that Brown or Olive could cause serious confusion in the name. Western is better than Northern for reasons stated by Donegan, and that gets my 2-point vote, although I don’t think it is ideal.

 

B. stenorhyncha

Slender-billed 0, Pale-bellied 1, Rufous-winged 0, Brownish 0, Russet 0.

 

Firstly, I have a serious problem calling it Slender-billed if it is only to reflect an inaccurate scientific name, when some other Schiffornis taxa have a more slender bill. Nor is this name of ANY use at all in the field, especially since the bird has a visually humongous looking bill which is very much deeper than Amazonian birds, hence my zero vote. The bill actually looks outsized on the bird, so calling it Slender-billed is contradictory. According to others, the wings are tinged rufous or russet. I have looked at photographs and am struggling with this feature; certainly they are not rufous, but there may be a russet tinge on specimens. I don’t think this is a good enough reason at all for the vernacular name. Pale-bellied is not a bad name as there is a real contrast.

 

C. olivacea

Guianan 0, Olivaceous 1,  [NEW PROPOSED NAME- Guyana 3]

 

Gary stated “accurately describes the species’ range, restricted to the Guianan Shield where it is the only Schiffornis, hence distinctive as well and useful in the field”, but on closer inspection there is a problem with this. It appears that olivacea is NOT the only Schiffornis in the Guianan Shield as I understand that wallacii (of the turdina group) is the taxon that covers Surinam and French Guiana; please correct me if I am wrong!! Accordingly, olivacea does not seemingly occur in the Guianan shield of French Guiana and Surinam. Wallacii therefore seemingly has a similar-sized range in the Guianan Shield as olivacea. yet none of this has been considered or properly addressed in the proposal. I tentatively propose Guyana Schiffornis to avoid this confusion and to reflect that olivacea occurs principally in Guyana, bearing in mind that it also occurs in adjacent ne. Venezuela, while it is a lowland and not a tepui form. Lastly, olivacea is yet another olive-brown Schiffornis, so when considering that some other Schiffornis taxa are much more olive, the appeal for the name Olivaceous shortens and only serves to reflect the scientific name. Verification of the range of the taxa involved is paramount before giving olivacea an English name.

 

D. aenea

Foothill 0, [NEW PROPOSED NAMES- Bronze 2, and see comments]

 

It should be noted that elsewhere there are other Schiffornis in foothills all over S. and C. America (in fact all of the other splits occur in foothills somewhere), so why should we associate the word Foothill with the east slope of the Andes in Ecuador and the east slope of the eastern Andes in (north-east?) Peru. Moreover, if Foothill became the accepted name, we would have Western/Northern Schiffornis in the foothills of the western slope of the Ecuadorian Andes, but Foothill Schiffornis would chiefly occur in the eastern “foothills” of Ecuador (where it does not occur below 900 m, which I would call true foothills!!!), whereas in Colombia you would find Schiffornis taxa on six different Andean foothill slopes of the three Andean ranges, but none of them would be called Foothill Schiffornis! For me, the Foothill name concept is redundant and is no better than calling it Forest Schiffornis, Whistling Schiffornis or whatever. For the time being, I propose Bronze Schiffornis to reflect the scientific name that is much better than Foothill, being more reflective although not ideal. If need be, it could be named after the type locality, a region, or the describer, any of which would be much better than Foothill. I haven’t dug out those options, but would endorse any of them before Foothill.

 

 

E. turdina

Eastern 2, Tetrasyllabic 0, Amazonian 1, Thrush-like 1, Schiff's 1, [NEW PROPOSED NAME- Brazilian 2.5]

 

Eastern is marginally the best of those suggested, although it’s not ideal at all and this name is not really saying much. Tetrasyllabic is too cumbersome and quirky. I propose Brazilian Schiffornis because 1) it’s the only turdina Schiffornis in Brazil, where it is allopatric to S. virescens, 2) it has a truly vast range in Brazil, while bearing in mind that it also gets into seven other countries although comparatively that only represents approx. <25-30% of the overall range. Hence I give Brazilian half a point more than Eastern for what it’s worth, just because it tells you more about the range of the bird. Here again, there is room for a better name, but Eastern doesn’t cut it for me.”

 

 

Additional comments from Remsen: “Mark’s point about wallacii brings up a problem.  The subspecies wallacii clearly falls in Nyári’s (2007) Guianan Shield group, and as Mark noted, its range includes Amapá, French Guiana, and Surinam.  However, the type locality is almost certainly south of the Amazon, in Pará; see Donegan et al. (2011).  Not only does this concern me with respect to the English name but also with respect to where wallacii really belongs. i.e. in S. turdina or S. olivacea, what the N. bank populations sound like with respect to the S. bank populations, whether wallacii is diagnosable, and whether the N. bank populations are correctly assigned to that taxon.  The list of recordings in Donegan et al. (2011) did not include any N. bank wallacii that I could see, but maybe I overlooked them.  Nyári (2007) had a sonogram from Surinam, thus presumably wallacii, and it looks the same as those from Bolívar and Manaus, so by both voice and genes, N. bank populations would seem to go with olivacea, regardless of subspecies assignment.

 

“Shifting gears  …. To further add to the mayhem, I hereby introduce yet another E name choice for turdina, mainly because the existing choices are all lousy in my opinion.  To emphasize the one clear phenotypic difference between stenorhyncha (“Rufous-winged” – yes it is a character that is evident in the hand at least for banders) and turdina where they meet somewhere in Colombia, I’m tossing in “Brown-winged” as a possibility.

 

Additional comments from Stiles: “To add to the mayhem of Schiffornis names, I agree with Mark R. that the wings of stenorhyncha are really duller than what most of us would call rufous, but they definitely do contrast with the body while those of amazonum don't... so how about a compromise: Russet-winged? Whatever the doubts regarding exactly what shade of brown russet is, I think that most would agree that it is something brighter than just plain brown, such that this name does imply a contrast between wings and body, and in effect it incorporates Ridgway's name.  With regard to aenea and Mark P.'s comments, the better term would be Bronzy: I have not seen specimens of this but if it is indeed distinguishably more bronzy than at least amazonum, I could go with it, at least as a second choice or even in a tie with Foothill (which to be sure is not the only Schiffornis in the foothills, but given its restricted range, this name is still very useful in setting it apart from the only neighboring member of the group.)  As for Guyana vs. Guianan, I agree with Van that there is sufficient doubt regarding ranges, the affinities of wallacei, etc., that I’ll stay with Guianan, but give a second choice to Guyana.”

 

Comments from Steve Hilty:

A. veraepacis:  Hesperian 2 [NEW], Western 1 (but Northern would do also, although I think the committee ought to stretch a little for unique names, hence Hesperian.

 

b. stenorhyncha:  Interjacene 2[NEW], Slender-billed 1.  There is not a single name proposed (including Gray-bellied, which is not helpful and marginally inaccurate) that is much good, and I am certainly at a loss to help. In the absence of anything unique I would propose "Interjacene" because this subspecies IS sandwiched "in between" forms to the east and west.  And, it gets away from the fixation on descriptive names, which aren't helpful here.  Otherwise, I'd just stick with Gary's suggestion of Slender-billed; at least it corresponds with the scientific name.

 

c. olivaceus. Guianan 3. I think Gary's suggestion of Guianan is accurate enough and also just vague enough that it will probably work if there are future changes. The name Guyana is inaccurate (if described range based on Peters Checklist is correct) because it appears that more of this forms' distribution is actually in Venezuela than in Guyana and (may need some fact-checking here), if there is a physical barrier separating this form from wallacii to the east it is likely to be the Essequibo River which splits Guyana down the middle. Certainly no physical barrier exists near the political boundary between Guyana and Suriname. Looks like wallacii and amazonus might not be worth both being recognized anyway, and that would make Guyana even a worse name because most of the distribution of that form would then be in Brazil.

 

d. aenea 3; others 0.  Again, I think Gary's suggestion is preferable. Maybe not perfect but descriptive names (Bronze?) for virtually any of the numerous forms are pretty worthless. At least "Foothill" provides some information about where this particular form resides, and that is helpful.

 

e. turdina. Brazilian 1, Eastern 1, Tetra-syllable, or Tetrasyllabic 1.  I have no opinion here. Seems any of these would do. Future splitting might render either of the first two names unsuitable.  Donegan's Tetra-whistle (or Tetra-syllable Schiffornis ought to be considered. At least it is an attention grabber.”

 

Comments from Thomas Donegan:

Below is a map that Miles McMullan has kindly put together to clarify the distributions of the various Schiffornis taxa, as per our paper.

 

schiff.jpg 

 

 

Please note:

 

- The range of olivacea is north of the Amazon in the lower / eastern part.  The type of subspecies wallacii seems to have been collected South of the Amazon (as discussed in our 2011 paper) so is presumed referable to the amazonum sub-group of S. turdina.  This hypothesis could be tested using ancient DNA but should be the starting point based on historical accounts of the expedition on which the type was collected and modern recordings.  There are two recordings proximate to Manaus, Brazil, from different banks of the Amazon of olivacea (north of the Amazon) and turdina group (south of the Amazon).  In the region of Para, all recordings South of the Amazon River are of the turdina group.  Further up the river, turdina occurs north of the Amazon though, ranging apparently broadly into Colombia and Venezuela.  It is not entirely clear what the river or other boundaries are between the two taxa, based on present materials, so some "?" are used in the map.  Any comments on this are welcome.  A Rio Negro division between turdina and olivacea seems plausible in core Amazonia, but then turdina also occurs broadly in the Venezuelan Amazon, so if this is a barrier in Brazil (as seems possible), it is breached somewhere further North where the Negro gets narrower.  Similarly, to the far East, there are no recordings available from immediately north of the Amazon opposite to the type locality of wallacii.

 

- Please note the sympatry / elevational parapatry of stenorhyncha and veraepacis in Panama: this is shown as bi-colored on the map.

 

- Some committee members are voting for S. veraepacis to be called "Northern Schiffornis".  This would be inappropriate.  This is the northernmost taxon, for sure.  However, it is also the second or third southernmost taxon out of five: note its range south to the Tumbes of Peru.  [The range of aenea is perhaps the least known of all of these so may be extended further.  It ties currently with veraepacis in southern-ness, but more information may push veraepacis to a more emphatic third; only turdina occurs significantly further South than the would-be "Northern Schiffornis".]  "Western Schiffornis" is far superior if prosaic: this one occurs to the west of all other species, except the small piece where sympatric with stenorhyncha.

 

- "Brazilian" for turdina seems inappropriate given that vast tracts of the Colombian, Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon are included (plus bits of Venezuela and Bolivia).  Brazil is greater by area by far, as Pearman notes, but for a wide-ranging group with very large areas in other countries, the national label seems inappropriate.  "Weid-Neuwied's" would be more appropriate than "Schiff's" - Wied-Neuwied was author of the species turdina, whilst Schiff is the basis for the patronym of the genus so not linked to the name turdina in any particular way.  "Amazonian" is wrong because turdina is also in the Atlantic forest. 

 

- "Tetrasyllabic" is clumsy enough to be a unique, informative and memorable name of utility in the field; the other options are really prosaic and soporific for a group in which voice gives the best characters.  As for vocal names not being any use in the field, how about "Whip-poor-will", "Chiffchaff", "Bellbird", "Kittiwake",  "Screamer" and "Mourner" (to name but a few "generic" vernacular names) and for species, "Mourning" Dove and Wheatear, "Screaming Piha", etc.?

 

- Retaining "Thrush-like" is not too bad an option for turdina - it is the name for the broader group and turdina remains a very wide-ranging taxon, retaining over 50% of its old range by area.

 

- "Guyanan" (referring to the country) seems inappropriate for olivacea, which occurs broadly north of the Amazon in the lower segment, including a significant range in Venezuela, Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and (presumably) French Guyana.  A broader Guianan shield reference is more appropriate, although this is also a northern Amazonia species so that name is not brilliant either.

 

- Turning to "Foothill" and aenea, note that "Foothill Antwren" Epinecrophylla spodionota also has a similar East slope distribution.

 

- I don't get a vote, but would plump for

• veraepacis: Western 3, Brown 1 (because it is already in limited usage). Everything else 0

• stenorhyncha: Slender-billed 2.  Russet, Rufous-winged, Pale-bellied 1 each.  Not because "Slender-billed" is any good, but because we used it in the McMullan Colombia field guide based on Nyári, so it is therefore already "out there" in three publications including a widely used field guide in the country in which most of its distribution occurs.

• olivacea: Guianan 2, Olivaceous 1, Ridgway's 1

• aenea: Foothill 2, Bronze 1 

• turdina: Tetrasyllabic 3, Eastern 1, Brown-winged 1, Thrush-like 1

 

Comments from Zimmer: “This really is a horrible group to have to choose English names for!  Let me start by reiterating my preference for “Schiffornis” over “Mourner” or “Whistler” or “Whistling-Bird” as a group name.  As for the various species, here goes:

 

“A)  veraepacis:  Western (3 points).  I think Western is the most geographically descriptive name.

 

“B) stenorhyncha:  Pale-bellied (3 points), Russet (2 points).  Note:  I do not like “Russet-winged” for this species, mainly because S. virescens of the Atlantic Forest has much more distinctly russet wings that contrast sharply with the greenish body.  If any Schiffornis is named “Russet-winged” or “Rufous-winged” it should be virescens.  Actually, I would prefer “Gray-bellied” over “Pale-bellied”, because the belly is contrastingly gray (compared to the chest), but is not particularly pale.  Introducing “Gray-bellied” would cause me to give it 3 points, and only 2 points to “Pale-bellied”, with “Russet” getting 1 point.

 

“C)  olivacea:  Guianan (3 points), Ridgway’s (2 points), Olivaceous (1 point).  I like “Guianan” as the most informative name, with “Ridgway’s” as the more memorable and distinct.  I don’t like Olivaceous, because there are too many populations in this group that are essentially some shade of olive or brown.

 

“D)  aenea:  Foothill (3 points), Zimmer’s (2 points).  “Foothill” is probably the most descriptive name.  Again, I don’t have an aversion to patronyms – at least they are usually distinct and memorable.

 

“E)  turdina:  Eastern (3), Amazonian (2).  Doug is correct in pointing out that nominate turdina is in the Atlantic Forest.  However, I would note that it occurs in the northern portion of the Atlantic Forest (Rio de Janeiro northward through Espirito Santo, Bahia, etc.), which has a definite Amazonian link (with taxa like Attila spadiceus, Thamnomanes caesius, Campylorhynchus turdinus, Turdus fumigatus, etc.).  When I think of Atlantic Forest Schiffornis, my mind turns to virescens before turdinus.  But, with more splitting likely, I think it is best to reserve the modifier “Amazonian” for some future split with an exclusively Amazonian distribution.  Given that, I think that “Eastern” would be the best choice for this group at the moment.

 

Comments from Schulenberg: “This entire situation is a mess. We've known for a long time that there was geographic variation in voice in Thrush-like Schiffornis, and suspected that Thrush-like represented more than one species. So on the face of it, Nyari's paper represented a big step forward. Yet his sampling was coarse - hard to ignore the paper completely, but it's also hard to work with the results. What we are left with is a suite of clades identified genetically, loosely tied to vocal types, all of which is, in some cases, even more loosely tied to described taxa. This just cries out for follow-up work to fill in the gaps in our knowledge, but to date that follow-up work has not appeared (or even been initiated?). I'm not sure how much confidence we can have, however, that the ranges of the taxa found east of the Andes as described in, say, Peters checklist will conform in the end to the lineages identified by Nyári. Collectively we have a lot of work to do, in the field and in the lab.

 

As for English names, we have to be careful not to make a bad situation worse. The situation is bad to begin with because all of these taxa are nondescript and look more or less alike, and because there is little in the way of available names to fall back on (Hellmayr names never really having had any traction, and being terrible anyway). But to top it all off, some of the comments in this discussion tend towards ruling out this name or that name because it isn't perfect - a unique descriptor of the taxon in question. I'm not convinced that that should be our benchmark. A lot of well-accepted names aren't uniquely descriptive - Little Tinamou is not the only little tinamou or even the littlest, Fork-tailed Woodnymph is not the only woodnymph with a fork in the tail, Barred Antshrike is not the only antshrike that is barred, et many cetera - but they are descriptive and there's nothing wrong with them. Learn to accept a name that is descriptive, and worry less about whether a given name is uniquely descriptive under every scenario under the sun.

 

Votes:

 

I.  On a name for the group: Schiffornis (3), Mourner (2), Whistle-bird (0).

 

II  A.  veraepacis

Northern (3), Brown (2), Western (1), Olive (1).

To me "Northern" is obviously a better (more descriptive or evocative) name than "Western" (and in no way "inappropriate"). Apparently others have different ideas, but the fact that the distribution of this species reaches the most northerly latitudes ("almost reaches Canada") is a lot more important biologically and is more interesting than whether or not the * entire * distribution is more northerly than that of some other taxon in this group. (See remarks above about Little Tinamou, etc.)

 

Of course, if anyone really were worried about all this, then - in the spirit of "Tetrasyllabic" (or "Pacific-slope") - the appropriate name would be "Trans-Andean" (which I see that Doug has invoked, independently, in a different proposal). Tetrasyllabic and Trans-Andean are seriously pedantic names, which might appeal to academic eggheads (most of whom rely on scientific names anyway), but I don't see either Tetrasyllabic or Trans-Andean winning much favor among the birding community, who are the ones who will need this name more than we do.

 

"Hesperian" is an interesting suggestion. I like the "thinking outside the box" approach. At the same time, how many people would know what it means? In this case, I'm not sure I do! Does it mean "western" or is it referring to "evening", as in a species that sings crepuscularly? If the latter, then why not "Evening" or "Twilight"? If "Hesperian" is just a fancy way of saying "Western", however, then better to stick with "Western".

 

II  B. stenorhyncha

Pale-bellied (3), Russet (2), Rufous-winged (1)

I prefer "Russet" over "Rufous-winged" mostly because it is shorter and snappier. (I take "russet" to be a dark reddish brown, similar to chestnut, so in that sense getting at the "Rufous-winged" aspect anyway.) 

"Narrow-billed" doesn't do anything for me.

 

II  C. olivacea

Guianan (3), Olivaceous (2), Ridgway's (1)

 

II  D. aenea

Foothill (3). The fact that other taxa occur somewhere else in some other foothills doesn't bother me (see Little Tinamou, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Barred Antshrike, etc.). In addition to the example of the antwren (Epinecrophylla), there also is a tyrannid with the name "Foothill" (Myiopagis olallai). These are the only species (globally) with "Foothill" in the name, so "Foothill" as a modifier is well on its way to signifying the foothills of the eastern Andes. This name is entirely appropriate for the species. Furthermore, as in the examples of the antwren and elaenia, the name "Foothill" emphasizes a key biological difference between a pair of related and closely similar species, one of which occurs in Amazonia and the other of which occurs "up there" in the foothills.

 

This is a taxon, by the way, that I suspect has a much broader distribution than currently is recognized. I assume that birds in the foothills of southern Peru (with a shorter song, lacking the inflected terminal note of turdina) are aenea - one of the many incompletely resolved pieces of this puzzle yet to be investigated.

 

II E. turdina

Brown (which I don't think was an option here). Why not? This is a brown taxon, and sets up a contrast with the parapatric and (marginally!) more olivaceous S. olivacea. Furthermore, it is the "rump" Thrush-like Schiffornis, the largest piece left after other taxa have been carved out, and its brownness was one of the features rendering it "thrush-like" - so in that sense the name is appropriate. Retaining "Thrush-like" could lead to confusion; it's usually a good idea to retire the sensu lato English name when there is a split. Amazonian and Eastern would do, but neither seems very good to me either. Brown-winged would be my second choice. Enthusiasm for other names given as options would be in negative territory.

 

Comments from Jaramillo: “

“1 – Use Schiffornis

“A – Western;  B – Russet-winged; C – Guianan; D – Foothill; E –  I like the idea of tetrasyllabic, but this is an English name, not a Scientific name. So why not call it Four-whistle Schiffornis. Four whistle will be very useful in the field, and is easily understood and memorable. So I am voting for tetrasyllabic in a way, but want to change it to make it more palatable.”