Proposal (136) to South American Classification Committee


Elevate Phaethornis longirostris baroni to species rank


Described as a separate species (under the splitting tendencies of the time) by Hartert (1897), this form was lumped into longirostris by Cory (1918) and has been considered a subspecies of this group by nearly all subsequent authors (though the species name has gone through several changes). It differs from other races in its greyer overall coloration with paler underparts, white lower tail-coverts and margins to the lateral rectrices, and slightly smaller size. It was considered a subspecies of superciliosus by Peters (1945) and Meyer de Schauensee (1966) and of malaris by Zimmer (1950), whose rearrangement of this complex was not generally followed. Hinkelmann (1996) and HBW considered baroni a well-differentiated race of longirostris, and suggested that "future studies may result in specific separation".


Ridgely & Greenfield (2001) split baroni off as a distinct species based upon plumage differences and different lek vocalizations (not described in detail).


The plumage differences, although suggestive, do not seem sufficient to justify a split given the variation in such characters among the races of superciliosus and malaris as currently recognized. I am very hesitant to make a split based upon unspecified differences in lek vocalizations (song??) since song learning in this group is well established (Stiles & Wolf 1979 and unpubl. data), and we have found very different-sounding songs within and between leks in Costa Rica, as well as significant size differences in populations in different parts of this country. Hence, until a careful study of lek vocalizations and courtship behavior is done with results justifying such a split, I recommend continuing to recognize baroni as a subspecies of longirostris, i.e., NO on this proposal.


Literature Cited:

Hartert 1897, Ibis

Cory 1918, Catalogue of Birds of the Americas, Part II no. 1.

Peters 1945, Checklist of Birds of the World, vol. 5

ZIMMER, J. 1950a. Studies of Peruvian birds, No. 55. The hummingbird genera Doryfera, Glaucis, Threnetes, and Phaethornis. American Museum Novitates 1449: 1-51.

Stiles & Wolf 1979, AOU Monographs no. 28

Meyer de Schauensee 1966, Species of Birds of South America

HINKELMANN, C. 1996. Systematics and geographic variation in long-tailed hermit hummingbirds, the Phaethornis superciliosus-malaris-longirostris species group (Trochilidae), with notes on their biogeography. Ornitologia Neotropical 7: 119-148.

Schuchmann 1999, HBW vol. 5

Ridgely & Greenfield 2001, Birds of Ecuador


Gary Stiles, November 2004




Comments from Remsen: "NO. Additional data must be published to justify this split."


Comments from Stotz: "NO.  There is insufficient data for this split. It seems to me that the whole malaris/superciliaris/longirostris/baroni complex (as well as other pieces of Phaethornis) would be well served by a genetic study. I really find it hard to believe that Hinklemann's treatment (which we follow implicitly) of cis-Andean birds is correct."


Comments from Pacheco: "NO. Concordo com Stiles, que alegadas diferenças nas vocalizações emitidas nos 'leks' não podem servir como argumento válido para separar populações de Phaethornis. Diferenças percebidas nos tais repertórios vocais, muitas vezes, não acompanham diferenças na morfologia. Em suma, a sugestão de Ridgely & Greenfield (2001) carece de melhores argumentos."


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO.  Good data for split is lacking. In this case, where vocal learning occurs, it is important to conduct a comprehensive study of geographic variation in voice before determining if it is a useful taxonomic character. Macro-geographic vocal differences could be used to support other data for a split, but no such vocal analysis exists."


Comments from Nores: "NO, no veo  azones de peso para hacer el cambio. Las características de plumaje responden bien a una subespecie, y en lo que respecta al canto, no hay indicaciones (sonogramas, etc.) como para tomar una decisión al respecto."


Comments from Zimmer: "NO. This whole complex needs a thorough analysis incorporating vocal, morphological and molecular data. Until then, I'm inclined to stick with the status quo, even if it too, seems flawed. Splitting baroni may be the right course, but I don't think there has been anything published that makes a compelling case for it."