Proposal (681) to South American Classification Committee


Change the English name of Buteogallus coronatus


Background: Buteogallus coronatus currently is called "Crowned Eagle" by SACC. This name has a long history in the literature on Neotropical birds (dating back at least to Meyer de Schauensee 1966). "Crowned Eagle" is an admirable improvement over similar names used by other authors, such as "Crowned Harpy Eagle" (Hellmayr and Conover 1949) or "Crowned Solitary Eagle" (Amadon and Brown 1968, Dickinson and Remsen 2013).


Unfortunately for us, the name "Crowned Eagle" also commonly is used for a widespread African species, Stephanoaetus coronatus (e.g., Amadon and Brown 1968, Britton et al. 1980, Brown et al. 1982, Borrow and Demey 2001).


There are workarounds for this, such as "African Crowned Eagle" (Zimmerman et al. 1996, Stevenson and Fanshawe 2002), which would require that a corresponding modifier be added to the English name of Buteogallus coronatus; or "Crowned Hawk Eagle" (with or without a hyphen) (Sibley and Monroe 1990, Fergusson-Lees et al. 2001).


All that said, "Crowned Eagle" is nice and short, which often is preferable to awkward compound names - especially when a name is awkwardly compound for the sole purpose of avoiding conflict with another species with the same name (e.g., American Tree Sparrow Spizelloides arborea vs. Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus).


New information: Another solution is just to change the English name of Buteogallus coronatus, and remove the basis of the conflict. Independently, several members of the SACC community proposed the alternative name “Chaco Eagle”:


"I also personally like the name CHACO EAGLE. It's the only really large eagle in the Gran Chaco; if I'm not mistaken all of its range lies within the Gran Chaco of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. OK, Harpy and Solitary might just edge in, but there is no doubt that coronatus is a true Chaco bird, and it's the true eagle of the vast chaco ecosystem. And we already have various other species with chaco in their name reflecting the region or habitat e.g. Chaco Earthcreeper, Chaco Owl, Many-coloured Chaco-Finch etc. The chaco is be devastated big time, bulldozed over for soya crops, so there is another reason to use the word Chaco in the name" (Mark Pearman).


"I was going to write something mentioning my strong disposition towards Chaco Eagle when Mark's note came through - I agree, Chaco Eagle. Even if it's range does venture outside of that ecozone, it is essentially a bird of the Chaco. That would make for a distinctive and clear name" (Alvaro Jaramillo).


"I had also thought of “Chaco Eagle” (in fact, it was the first alternative that I thought of), although much of the bird’s Brazilian range is not now, or never was 'Chaco' but rather cerrado, pastureland (in what was formerly Atlantic Forest), and plateau grasslands. I’ve also seen them in extensive soybean monocultures in northern Mato Grosso!  However, as Tom notes, it doesn’t have to be exclusively a chaco bird for the name to fit, and the chaco region definitely constitutes the core of the species’ range. So, I’d move that to the top of my list of desirable names. The more that we can avoid supposedly descriptive names that rest on hairsplitting shades of gray (as is the case for so many Thamnophilids), the better, in my opinion. 'Chaco Eagle' is pithy, memorable, and does tell us something important about the bird" (Kevin Zimmer).



Recommendation: SACC should adopt the descriptive name "Chaco Eagle" for Buteogallus coronatus.




Borrow, N., and R. Demey. 2001. A guide to the birds of western Africa. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Britton, P.L. (editor). 1980. Birds of east Africa. East Africa Natural History Society, Nairobi.

Brown, L. and D. Amadon. 1968. Eagles, hawks and falcons of the world. McGraw Hill, New York.

Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Volume I. Academic Press, London.

Dickinson, E.C., and J.V. Remsen, Jr. (editors). 2013. The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the world. Fourth edition. Volume 1. Non-passerines. Aves Press, Eastbourne, United Kingdom.

Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston and New York.

Hellmayr, C.E., and B. Conover. 1949. Catalogue of birds of the Americas. Part I, number 4. Field Museum of Natural History Zoological Series volume 13, part 1, number 4.

Meyer de Schauensee, R. 1966. The species of birds of South America and their distribution.  Livingston Publishing Company, Narberth, Pennsylvania.

Sibley, C.G., and B.L. Monroe, Jr. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.

Stevenson, T., and J. Fanshawe. 2002. Field guide to the birds of East Africa. T & A D Poyser, London.

Zimmerman, D.A., D.A. Turner, and D.J. Pearson. 2996. Birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.


Tom Schulenberg, October 2015




Comments from Remsen: “YES.  For me “the” Crowned Eagle is the African species; although I’ve never been to Africa, I was exposed to the bird from picture books as a kid long before I had ever heard of “our” species.  I think the African species’ long-standing name should be left alone.  That means we have to do something.  “Solitary Eagle” is a pretty silly name when you think about it (derived from the just as silly scientific name), but it is also has a long tradition and should not be messed with in terms of compound group names.  Therefore, despite my entrenched dislike for concocting novel names, I am strongly in favor of it in this case.  For all the reasons pointed out above, Chaco Eagle seems like a great choice.”