Proposal (764) to South American Classification Committee



Recognize Anthus brevirostris as a separate species from Anthus furcatus


Effect on SACC: This would split Anthus brevirostris from A. furcatus.


Background & New information: The current classification considers the taxon brevirostris to be a subspecies of A. furcatus, following most recent classifications.



According to new multilocus (ND2, ACOI9, MB, FGB5) genetic and vocal data (Van Els & Norambuena 2017), the taxon brevirostris is sister to furcatus, but the divergence between them is deep. The split between both occurred approximately 1-1.5 Mya. Genetic divergence between brevirostris and furcatus is fairly high (~2.6%) and on par with divergence between other Neotropical pipit taxa recognized at present as full species. The voices of brevirostris and furcatus are similar syntactically, but consistently different in multiple ways; furcatus’ song length is shorter, but its buzz covers a broader frequency spectrum and notes before and after the buzz are more complex.


Finally, brevirostris is geographically isolated from furcatus elevationally, and it lives in a rather different environment than that species. Whereas brevirostris uses short grass, pastures, and rolling hills with a mix of bunch-grass and short grass in the puna zone to 4300 m (Tyler 2004), furcatus occurs mainly in temperate lowland grassland. Most sources indicate that the ranges of brevirostris and furcatus do not approach each other (Olrog 1963, Peters 1960, Tyler 2004), but they may overlap elevationally in Tucumán Province, Argentina, and this should be verified.



We recommend separating the two subspecies and we propose the name Puna Pipit for brevirostris, as it appears to be tightly linked to semi-arid high-elevation puna habitat throughout its range. We acknowledge that the scientific name brevirostris agrees closely with the English name Short-billed Pipit, but prefer to retain this name for the nominate. Given the facts stated above, A. brevirostris should precede A. furcatus in the linear sequence of Motacillidae.




Olrog, C.C. 1963. Lista y distribución de las aves argentinas, Vol. 9. Tucumán: Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Instituto Miguel Lillo.

Peters, J.L. 1960. Checklist of the Birds of the World, Vol. 9. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Tyler, S. 2004. Family Motacillidae (Pipits and wagtails). In Del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Christie, D.A. (eds.) Handbook of the Birds of the World: Cotingas to Pipits and Wagtails, Vol. 9: 686–786. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Van Els, P. & H.V. Norambuena. 2018. A revision of species limits in Neotropical pipits Anthus based on multilocus genetic and vocal data. Ibis 160: 158-172.


Heraldo V. Norambuena & Paul van Els, July 2017


Note from Remsen: If this proposal passes, a separate proposal will be need for English names.  SACC guidelines recommend using different names for daughter species than parent to prevent confusion,




Comments from Stiles: "YES, supported by genetic, vocal and ecological differences in a genus like Anthus in which morphological differences between species are often subtle and easily overlooked."


Comments from Areta: "YES. The relatively deep (for a Neotropical pipit) genetic divergence and the diagnostic vocalizations support the split."


Comments from Zimmer: “YES.  The genetic, vocal and ecological data are congruent, and they support splitting brevirostris from furcatus.