Proposal (139) to South American Classification Committee


Recognize Coeligena eos as separate species from Coeligena bonapartei


Coeligena bonapartei was described by Boissoneau (1840) from Bogotá, presumably based upon specimens sent to Paris by Goudot (or from some of the earliest "Bogotá" skins): since it does occur commonly around Bogotá this seems reasonable as a type locality. C. eos was described by Gould (1848) from "the highlands of Venezuela and Colombia", later restricted to Mérida, Venezuela by Wetmore & Phelps (1952). They differ in plumage characters, males of eos having the secondaries and tail mostly rufous and a more golden-bronze coloration overall. They were considered separate species by Cory (1918) and Peters (1945).


However, Wetmore and Phelps (1952) described the race consita from three females collected in the Serranía de Perijá on the Colombia-Venezuela border and based upon its intermediate characters, considered that all three of these forms were best considered races of a single species. This was followed by Meyer de Schauensee (1966) and Sibley & Monroe (1990).


However, Schuchmann (1999) split eos as a separate species from bonapartei (with consita), and this was followed by Hilty (2002). Schuchmann's rationale was "plumage characters" but no specific comparisons were presented. Thus, the validity of the split rests entirely on whether the differences in plumage between eos and consita-bonapartei are of a magnitude to justify it -- and by implication, whether consita is sufficiently closer to bonapartei to discard its intermediacy as a reason for lumping them.


In their description of consita, Wetmore & Phelps (1952) considered this form closer to eos than bonapartei because of its conspicuous rufous spot on the secondaries, which they noted was slightly smaller than in the former. In ventral pattern, they noted its less spotted throat and more extensively green breast and sides, its tail and upperparts greener (the tail entirely golden-green rather than "mostly hazel"), relative to eos. Compared to bonapartei, consita was described as more bronzy above, the throat and crissum paler, the abdomen less greenish. They also noted that in some bonapartei females, there was a smaller, fainter spot of "brown" (dull rufous) on the concealed parts of the secondaries. They had no males of consita.


Schuchmann´s (1999) text confirms that those features present in females of consita and interpreted as representing intermediacy also occur in males: the rufous area of the secondaries is smaller than in eos, the overall color is greener than in eos but more golden-bronze than in bonapartei. The three appear similar in size, as noted by Wetmore and Phelps (1952), although Schuchmann (1999) stated that the bill of eos was "shorter than in other Coeligena". However, judging from measurements presented by Wetmore & Phelps (1952) for their series of consita, its bill is also slightly shorter on average than those of a large series of measurements I have made on female bonapartei. I have also confirmed the statement by Wetmore and Phelps to the effect that a small dull rufous area is present on the secondaries of an appreciable proportion of bonapartei of both sexes. There is a considerable gap between the known ranges of consita and bonapartei in Colombia, but as noted by Wetmore & Phelps, the intervening area has been poorly collected (and much of it is dangerous).


Based on the published data of Wetmore & Phelps and Schuchmann and my own experience with bonapartei, I believe that Wetmore & Phelps were correct in considering all three forms conspecific. Indeed, if one were to separate them it is practically arbitrary whether to consider consita a race of eos or bonapartei, depending upon which characters one chooses to emphasize. Moreover, the amount of intraspecific variation in several other undoubted species of Coeligena (iris, torquata, violifer) equals or exceeds that within a broad bonapartei. I therefore recommend a NO vote on this proposal.


(I note here that I have not touched the question of whether to include orina as a race of bonapartei or as a separate species. FYI, the evidence from recently collected specimens clearly shows that orina is a separate species; a publication on this is in progress, and I shall present a proposal in due course).


Literature Cited:
Boissoneau 1840, Revue Zool. 1840:6
Gould 1848, PZSL 1848:11
Cory 1918, Catalogue of Birds of the Americas, vpl. 2 pt. 1.
Peters 1945, Checklist of Birds of the World, vol. 5
Wetmore & Phelps Jr. 1952, Proc. Biol. Soc. Washington 65:135
Meyer de Schauensee 1966, Species of Birds of South America
Sibley & Monroe 1990, Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World
Schuchmann 1999, Handbook of Birds of the World, vol. 5
Hilty 2002, Guide to the Birds of Venezuela


Gary Stiles, November 2004




Comments from Remsen: "NO. There is no published rationale that trumps Wetmore & Phelps assessment."


Comments from Pacheco: "[NO. O arranjo arbitrariamente proposto por Schuchmann não pode ser aceito diante das informações disponíveis."


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO.  More data are needed to assess if this split is reasonable."


Comments from Nores: "NO. Las razones son similares a lo de los casos anteriores. No hay elementos de peso para pasar las subespecies a especies."


Comments from Zimmer: "NO. Subspecies consita sounds to be perfectly intermediate, both morphologically and in its geographic distribution."