Proposal (100) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Anisognathus melanogenys


Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list from a "Meyer de Schauensee" name ("Black-cheeked Mountain-Tanager") to an "Isler" name ("Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager").


Background: Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970) used the name "Black-cheeked Mountain-Tanager" for Anisognathus melanogenys, and this was followed by Hilty & Brown (1986), still the primary guide to birds of Colombia, and presumably other literature, until Isler & Isler (1987) changed this to "Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager " in reference to its small range, the Santa Marta Mountains of Colombia. This was followed by Ridgely & Tudor (1989), who noted:


"As many other mountain-tanagers have black cheeks, it seems preferable to emphasize the restricted distribution of this tanager by calling it the 'Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager'.'"


This was followed by Sibley & Monroe (1990), but not Dickinson (2003).


Analysis: Although other mountain-tanagers do indeed have black cheeks, none have the black cheeks sharply contrasting with adjacent plumage areas as in A. melanogenys -- it was given that scientific name for a good reason. This includes its widespread allospecies A. lacrymosus, which has blackish to blackish-blue cheeks but these blend into rest of head pattern; in other Anisognathus and Buthraupis with black cheeks, either the forehead, crown or throat is black like the cheek area.


Recommendation: I vote "NO" on this proposal because my basic philosophy on English names is, for sake of stability, "no change" unless highly misleading, which "Black-cheeked" is definitely not -- it is an excellent name that highlights an important feature of the bird.


Literature Cited:

HILTY, S. L., AND W. L. BROWN. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1966. The species of birds of South America and their distribution. Livingston Publishing Co., Narberth, Pennsylvania.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1970. A guide to the birds of South America. Livingston Publishing Co., Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

RIDGELY, R. S., AND G. TUDOR. 1989. The birds of South America, vol. 1. Univ. Texas Press, Austin.

SIBLEY, C. G., AND B. L. MONROE, JR. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.


Van Remsen, February 2004




Comments from Robbins: "YES. Like proposal #99, this is an improvement and it now has been used by a number of authors."


Comments from Zimmer: "YES, following the reasoning of the previous proposal (although I think the old name of this species is superior to that of the Ramphocelus)."


Comments from Schulenberg: "NO. Once again, I start from the beginning position that if there is no compelling reason to change an established name, then don't do it.


“Beyond that, while place names have a long history of use in ornithology, and in many cases are entirely appropriate choices, I am not enthusiastic about any trend to replace established names in favor of adopting names based on geography.


“Names based on geography make some sense, in an anal pedantic way, when one is sitting in an lab somewhere, far removed from the field. Adopting such names makes it easier to "deal with" the chore of naming things: "oh, that's from BlahBlah, we'll name it after that place. What's next on the list?". “But when in the field in BlahBlah, the constant repetition of "BlahBlah this" and "BlahBlah that" loses its charm in a hurry. I truly felt burned on this score when working in Madagascar, which has a large number of endemic species. Some are endemic species belonging to genera that are widespread elsewhere, while others are endemic species belonging to endemic genera. Something approaching 75% of the endemic species of widespread genera carries name that are some version of "Madagascar this" or "Madagascar that", and even a few species belonging to endemic genera carry the name "Madagascar". Madagascar is a wonderful place, like no other region I know, but at the end of the day one just doesn't want to hear the word "Madagascar" ever again.


“A few of the endemic species of widespread genera on Madagascar have truly wonderful names, such as Souimanga Sunbird or Nelicourvi Weaver. How many more such imaginative names could we have had if those in control had not been so quick to reach for the catch word "Madagascar"?


“I realize that "Black-cheeked" is not a magical word or phrase, but still ... I've been to the Santa Martas. And even though there are many fewer endemics there than are on Madagascar, it still drives me to distraction to be calling out "Santa Marta this" or "Santa Marta that" all day long. Cheapens the whole experience of being there, in my view.


“Could just be me, I guess, I don't know. But since Van asked ..."


Comments from Stiles: "NO, for the same reasons [as in prop. 99]. The bird IS "black-cheeked", if anything rather more so than most of its relatives."


Comments from Nores: "NO. Por las razones dadas en la especie anterior [Ramphocelus melanogaster].


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO.  Reasoning similar to the Ramphocelus proposal. Black-cheeked seems perfectly appropriate to me."