Proposal (84) to South American Classification Committee
Change English name of Atlapetes latinuchus
Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list from a novel "Dickinson (2003)" name to a novel "Ridgely-Greenfield" name or "Clements-Shany" name.
Background: The finding by García-Moreno & Fjeldså (1999) that the "species" Atlapetes rufinucha was polyphyletic left all recent authors scrambling for English names for the northern form, A. latinuchus (which seems to be more closely related to nominate A. schistaceus than to A. rufinucha).
García-Moreno & Fjeldså (1999) used "Northern Rufous-naped Brush-finch" for A. latinuchus, and "Bolivian Rufous-naped Brush-finch" for A. rufinucha. Ridgely & Greenfield (2001), possibly objecting to the awkwardness of the long, compound names and presumably also objecting to the implication that such a compound name would incorrectly imply sister-species status between A. latinuchus and A. rufinucha, used "Rufous-naped Brush-finch" for A. latinuchus and renamed A. rufinucha "Bolivian Brush-finch" (it is endemic to that country). Unfortunately, that choice will likely create confusion, because "Rufous-naped" is the translation of the species epithet of A. rufinucha, not A. latinuchus, the name to species to which Ridgely & Greenfield applied it. Clements & Shany, possibly because of the latter problem, invented "Cloud-forest Brush-finch" for A. latinuchus. Unfortunately, (1) A. latinuchus is not really any more of a "cloud-forest " species than other high-elevation Atlapetes of the humid slopes of the Andes, and (2) some populations, e.g., subspecies baroni and chugurensis, are not cloud-forest birds. Remsen, faced with these problems for Dickinson (2003) and finding no suitable historical name in Hellmayr (1938), decided to add to the chaos by christening the latinuchus group with the insipid name "Yellow-breasted Brush-finch." I wasn't particularly enchanted with this name, but at least it avoids the problems of the other names and also distinguishes it from any of the roughly sympatric Atlapetes of the region, which are mostly grayish, whitish, or greenish (A. pallidinucha) except for A. albofrenatus in ne. Colombia.
Analysis: None of these names have any historical momentum, and I'm certainly not emotionally attached to "Yellow-breasted." I'd say it is "open season" on finding an English name for this species. Although I think "Yellow-breasted" is "better" than the published alternatives so far, I am open to suggestions from you English names geniuses out there.
Recommendation: I tentatively vote NO on this, pending suggestions of others on better names.
A "NO" vote will signify sticking with "our" current "Yellow-breasted." A "YES" vote will be interpreted as "anything but Yellow-breasted," including but not restricted to the previous alternatives above. If the proposal passes, then we'll have to pick one of the others or invent yet another new one.
CLEMENTS, J. F., AND N. SHANY. 2001. A field guide to the birds of Peru. Ibis Publ. Co., Temecula, California.
DICKINSON, E. C. (ed.). 2003. The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the World, Revised and enlarged 3rd Edition. Christopher Helm, London, 1040 pp.
GARCÍA-MORENO, J., AND J. FJELDSÅ. 1999. Re-evaluation of species limits in the genus Atlapetes based on mtDNA sequence data. Ibis 141: 199-207.
HELLMAYR, C. E. 1938. Catalogue of birds of the Americas. Field Mus. Nat. Hist. Publ., Zool. Ser., vol. 13, pt. 11.
RIDGELY, R. S., AND P. J. GREENFIELD. 2001. The birds of Ecuador. Vol. I. Status, distribution, and taxonomy. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.
Van Remsen, December 2003
Comments from Stiles: "[YES -- change to something besides Yellow-breasted]. Yellow-breasted B-F does not produce a feeling of well-being either. In principle the Ridgely solution seems logical but the objection of separating rufinucha and Rufous-naped in separate species seems fatal to me. Hence, I suggest reserving "Rufous-naped" for the inclusive species, and if they are split using "Bolivian" for rufinucha and an alternative like "Rusty-naped" (hopefully not preoccupied) for latinuchus."
Comments from Zimmer: "YES=NO, stick with Van's proposed name of "Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch", unless someone comes up with something clearly better. The name isn't great, at least in the sense that the highlighted character isn't unique. But no one says these descriptive names have to be diagnostic. And, as Van points out, it does distinguish the bird from most sympatric congeners. I think "Northern Rufous-naped Brush-Finch" is too long and awkward; "Cloud-forest Brush-Finch" is only slightly shorter and somewhat inaccurate; and Gary's proposed "Rusty-naped Brush-Finch" suffers when one considers the subspecies baroni, which does not have a rusty nape. A good toponym is not obvious, nor is there any diagnostic plumage character that I can think of. I'd say keep "Yellow-breasted" for latinuchus, retain "Bolivian" for rufinucha, and if baroni proves to be distinct, it could be called Baron's Brush-Finch.
Comments from Robbins: "[YES] I don't have strong feelings on this, but I agree with Gary's comments, hence, I vote yes."
Comments from Stotz: "NO. I am not a big fan of Van's name, but I can't see any of the other options as better."
Comments from Schulenberg: "[NO]. I think that someday we should vote on the split of Atlapetes rufinucha rather than take the new arrangement for granted. The split may fit with our world view, but in concrete terms has poor support."
Comments from Jaramillo: "YES. I don't like Yellow-breasted much. I do think that the proposal to call one Bolivian and the other Rufous-naped is better, Larus atricapilla is not the Black-headed Gull and that doesn't seem to confuse anyone. Otherwise keep Bolivian, and change Rufous-naped as Gary suggests. "