Proposal (129) to South American Classification Committee



Change English name of Cistothorus meridae from "Paramo Wren" to "Merida Wren"


Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list from a "Meyer de Schauensee" name ("Paramo Wren") to a "Ridgely" name ("Merida Wren").


Background: Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970) used the name "Paramo Wren" for Cistothorus meridae, and this was followed by Meyer de Schauensee & Phelps (1978) and Fjeldså & Krabbe (1990). Ridgely & Tudor (1989) changed this to "Merida Wren" with the following note:


"As so many of the races of the Grass Wren found in the Andes are characteristic of the páramo zone, we find it misleading and inappropriate for meridae to be singled out as the 'Paramo Wren.' We prefer to emphasize its very restricted range, almost entirely encompassed by the state of Mérida.'"


This was followed by Sibley & Monroe (1990), Brewer (2001), and Hilty (2003), but not by Rodner et al. (2000) or Dickinson (2003).


Analysis: This, in my opinion, is a classic case of unnecessary name-meddling. The rather overwrought statement from Ridgely-Tudor above could be equally applied to "Merida Wren" in that it is "misleading and inappropriate” for meridae to be singled out as the "Merida Wren" when so many other wrens also occur in Merida. If meridae did not occur in paramo, then that would be one thing, but as long as it is appropriate, the cost-benefit of changing the name is dubious in my opinion. Unfortunately, Hilty's book, which uses "Merida", will likely remain the standard field guide for the country for many years, and that might be the best reason to go with Merida.


Recommendation: As usual, if we were starting from scratch, I'd vote for Merida over Paramo as being slightly better, but with Paramo having at nearly 40 years of history, I don't see the point and recommend a NO on this one.


Literature Cited:

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

HILTY, S. L. 2003. Birds of Venezuela. 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.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R., AND W. H. PHELPS. 1978. A guide to the birds of Venezuela. Princeton.

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

RODNER, C., M. LENTINO, AND R. RESTALL. 2000. Checklist of the birds of northern South America. Yale University Press.

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, August 2004




Comments from Stiles: "YES. Although I share your objections to "name-meddling", this seems to be a case where the "meddled" new name IS distinctly better AND has "caught on" in several key publications, which seem to give it a status comparable to the older name. In particular, "Mérida" wren was used in Hilty's Venezuela guide, which looks to be the standard authority on birds of that country for years to come - and since the bird is a Venezuelan endemic, it's the Venezuelans who will be most interested in using it - it won´t affect names elsewhere. And, I think it's a better name. The point is not that there are plenty of other wrens in Mérida, but rather that it is the ONLY one found essentially ONLY in Mérida. As I mentioned before at one point, I favor toponyms when the species in question is a narrow endemic but not when they only indicate the type locality of a more widely distributed for. Moreover, over most of the Andes THE "páramo wren" is C. platensis (or whatever it should be called if split) - hence confusion could arise (outside of Mérida, at any rate)."


Comments from Robbins: "[YES.] I vote "yes" as this name is quite appropriate and as Gary points out it has become standard usage."


Comments from Nores: "NO. Aunque C. platensis también habite algunas zonas de páramo, la especie más típica de los páramos es meridae. Además, no es endémica de Mérida, sino que también habita parte de Trujillo."


Comments from Silva: "YES, based on Gary's comments."


Comments from Zimmer: "I vote "YES" for reasons nicely summed up by Gary."


Comments from Stotz: "NO. Paramo is well-established, even if not completely ideal. If we can survive prairie warbler, we can live with Paramo Wren."


Comments from Pacheco: "YES. Especialmente, porque 1) Cistothorus dos Páramos é Cistothorus platensis na maior parte dos Andes, como bem frisado por Stiles e 2) estabelece de imediato uma conexão entre o táxon e a sua área única de ocorrência. Mérida é o nome da "Cordillera" (e também de uma EBA, da BirdLife), da qual o táxon é endêmico, e não apenas o nome do estado. Por fim, Hellmayr (1934. Catalogue of Birds of the Americas) usou "Mérida Grass Wren".


Comments from Jaramillo: "YES.  The name is distinctly better in my opinion, and while name meddling is a pain, this new name is now being used by the standard volume for Venezuela and as such the long history is probably trumped by the modern widespread usage of the new name. It is thus less confusing to go with Merida than keep Paramo. I wonder how consistent I will be in applying this logic to other issues!"


Comments from Schulenberg: "YES. Ordinarily I'd vote "No", but with the name adopted by so many recent sources (including Hilty) it seems pointless to buck the trend."