Proposal (102) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Tangara argyrofenges


Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list from a "Meyer de Schauensee" name ("Green-throated Tanager") to an "Isler" name ("Straw-backed Tanager").


Background: Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970) used the name "Green-throated Tanager" for Tangara argyrofenges, and this was followed by Parker et al. (1982) and presumably other literature, until Isler & Isler (1987) changed this to "Straw-backed Tanager. " This was followed by Ridgely & Tudor (1989), who noted:


"This species' most striking field character (and the one which most readily distinguishes it from closely related T. viridicollis) is its shining straw-colored mantle. It does have a green throat, but so do T. heinei and T. phillipsi. We thus have selected a new, distinctive name for it.”


This was followed by Sibley & Monroe (1990) and Clements and Shany (2001), but not Remsen & Traylor (1989), Fjeldså & Krabbe (1990), Hennessey et al. (2003), or Dickinson (2003).


Analysis: "Straw-backed" is not a better name, in my opinion. In contrast to the statement above, throat color is just as simple a way to tell T. viridicollis from T. argyrofenges, and is likely more reliable (green vs. rufous) from a typical ventral view than trying to distinguish the slightly iridescent back colors. Also, the "straw" of T. viridicollis is not restricted to the back but also the conspicuously contrasting sides and flanks. Furthermore, "straw" implies to me a "flat" dull color, not the iridescent yellowish gold of this species. As for T. heinei and T. phillipsi, they are allopatric, and so confusion over throat color is not a field problem. Perhaps the biggest advantage in my view to the proposed changes in English names of this species and T. viridicollis is that it avoids the perpetual confusion (for me) between their English and scientific names.


Recommendation: I vote NO on this proposal. In this case, I do not think the "improved" name is really an improvement.


Literature Cited:

CLEMENTS, J. F., AND N. SHANY. 2001. A field guide to the birds of Peru. Ibis Publ. Co., Temecula, California.

FJELDSÅ, J., AND N. KRABBE. 1990. Birds of the High Andes. Zoological Museum, Univ. Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

HENNESSEY, A. B, S. K. HERZOG, AND F. SAGOT. 2003. Lista anotada de las Aves de Bolivia. Asociación Armonía/Birdlife International, Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

ISLER, M., AND P. ISLER. 1987. The tanagers, natural history, distribution, and identification. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

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.

PARKER, T. A. III, S. A. PARKER, & M. A. PLENGE. 1982. An annotated list of Peruvian birds. Buteo Books.

REMSEN, J. V., JR. & M. A. Traylor, Jr. 1989. An annotated list of the birds of Bolivia. Buteo Books, Vermillion, South Dakota.

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. The slight improvement over Green-throated coupled with the fact that it does eliminate the confusion between English and scientific names of Tangara argyrofenges and T. viridicollis is enough to justify the change."


Comments from Zimmer: "YES, although I'm conflicted on this one. "Green-throated Tanager" is not inappropriate, but for symmetry (assuming proposal 101 passes), it would be nice to have a name that is similar to that of viridicollis. If proposal #101 doesn't pass, and viridicollis remains as "Silver Tanager", then I would be inclined to vote NO and keep argyrofenges as "Green-throated."


Comments from Stiles: "NO - the old name is not wrong, just nondiagnostic."


Comments from Nores: "NO. Por las razones dadas en las respuestas a las propuestas 99 y 100."


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO.  Straw-backed is a great improvement over green-throated. I have seen this species several times, and I don't think I recall the green throat at all, the back stands out like a sore thumb. I do vote for name stability in general, but while some of these new names have had a relatively short existence, it perhaps adds up to more general use than 30+ years of the old name, in other words more people know the new names than the old names. Given this problem, sometimes keeping a stable old name becomes an effective name change for the user group. Given that for this and proposal 101, I find the new names much improved from the old names, I feel better voting yes on both. Again, I like the symmetry of these names for these similarly patterned and presumably sister species."