Proposal (154) to South American Classification Committee


Change English Name of Chamaeza turdina to "Scalloped Antthrush"


Effect on South American Check-list: This proposal is the third of three that will attempt to stabilize the English names of three species of Chamaeza antthrushes that share an intertwined taxonomic and nomenclatural history. This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list, Chamaeza turdina, from "Schwartz's Antthrush", to "Scalloped Antthrush", a Ridgely name.


Background: See the detailed history of this complex under Proposal #152.


Analysis: Although the published vocal analysis upon which Willis based his split of these antthrushes was weak, subsequent work has confirmed his conclusions regarding the relationships of the Atlantic Forest populations to one another. C. campanisona, C. ruficauda, and C. meruloides clearly behave as good biological species that largely replace one another altitudinally, but with some overlap. They are vocally and morphologically distinct from one another. Nominate ruficauda is also clearly distinct from C. turdina of Colombia/Venezuela, differing markedly in morphological characters and having a dramatically different song and calls. There is less documented justification for the separation of meruloides from turdina, which have somewhat similar songs, but I think that Willis's conclusions regarding the morphological differences and huge range disjunction are correct, and that maintaining all of these as separate species is the proper course. The species-level taxonomic changes proposed by Willis have been universally adopted.


Conversely, the application of English names has been a free-for-all. I have made arguments regarding the English names of ruficauda and meruloides in separate proposals. This proposal will focus on C. turdina (which includes chionogaster of Venezuela). The only historic names for this species are "Colombian Rufous-tailed Antthrush" for turdina, and "Venezuelan Rufous-tailed Antthrush" for chionogaster; both from Cory & Hellmayr (1924). Subsequent authors treated these two forms as conspecific with ruficauda of SE Brazil, lumping them all under the English name of "Rufous-tailed Antthrush". Willis (1992) re-split turdina/chionogaster from ruficauda, and suggested the English name of "Schwartz's Antthrush" for the Colombian/Venezuelan birds, in honor of Paul Schwartz, who arguably knew chionogaster better than anyone, who probably made the first tape recordings of the species, and, whose observations regarding the different voices of antthrushes in eastern Brazil led Willis down the path of discovery that resolved the species-limits that we recognize today.


Ridgely and Tudor (1994) and Sibley and Monroe (1990) coined the name "Scalloped Antthrush" for turdina/chionogaster, to "emphasize the difference in breast pattern from its Brazilian relative" (Ridgely & Tudor 1994). Most Chamaeza represent minor variations on a common theme when it comes to plumage differences, and few names that attempt to be descriptive of plumage differences are really helpful, at least under field conditions. While "Scalloped Antthrush" may be more descriptive of turdina/chionogaster relative to ruficauda, it does not convey especially useful information, and the two species have such hugely disjunct ranges that confusion between them is not really an issue.


The SACC uses "Schwartz's Antthrush" on our Base List, as do Krabbe & Schulenberg (2003) in Volume 8 of HBW, and Hilty (2003) in Birds of Venezuela. The only other published alternatives (to "Schwartz's" or "Scalloped") are the old Cory-Hellmayr names of "Colombian Rufous-tailed Antthrush" and "Venezuelan Rufous-tailed Antthrush", which are incredibly cumbersome, and inappropriate given that 1) the two forms are currently treated as conspecific, and neither name adequately speaks to the range of the species as a whole; and 2) the compound group name is not appropriate, given that vocal characters suggest that ruficauda is not the closest relative of turdina/chionogaster.


Recommendation: The name of "Schwartz's Antthrush" was suggested by the person responsible for its recognition as a separate species, in honor of an ornithologist who in many ways laid the foundation for that work. This recognition is, in my opinion, entirely appropriate, and I think there is nothing to be gained by changing to an arguably "descriptive" name. I recommend a "NO" vote on this proposal, resulting in the retention of the English name of "Schwartz's Antthrush" for C. turdina.


Literature Cited

CLEMENTS, J. F. 2000. Birds of the world: a checklist. Fifth Edition. Ibis Publishing Company, Vista, California.

CORY, C. B., AND C. E. HELLMAYR. 1924. Catalog of birds of the Americas. Publications of the Field Museum of Natural History (Zoological Series) 13:3 (369 pp.)

HILTY, S. L. 2003. Birds of Venezuela. Second Edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

KRABBE, N. K., AND T. S. SCHULENBERG. 2003. Family Formicariidae (Ground Antbirds). In DEL HOYO, J., A. ELLIOTT AND D. CHRISTIE (eds.). Handbook of Birds of the World: Volume 8. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

RIDGELY, R. S., AND G. TUDOR. 1994. Birds of South America, Volume II: the suboscine passerines. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.

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

SICK, H. 1985. Ornitologia Brasileira, uma introdçao. Editora Univ. Brasília, Brasília.

SICK, H. 1993. Birds in Brazil. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

SICK, H., AND J. F. PACHECO. 1997. Ornitologia Brasileira. Editora Nova Fronteira, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

WILLIS, E. 1992. Three Chamaeza Antthrushes in eastern Brazil (Formicariidae). Condor 94:110-116.


Kevin J. Zimmer, December 2004




Comments from Robbins: "NO. The name Schwartz's Antthrush is quite appropriate."


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO. Sounds good to me, and I do think it is a real benefit to the users of these English names when ours match those of HBW. So when there is a viable option that makes sense and matches HBW, I am likely to go with it."


Comments from Stiles: "NO. No reasonable alternative exists, no reason to change."


Comments from Nores: "YES. Yo no estoy de acuerdo en denominar vulgarmente a una especie con el nombre de alguien que la haya estudiado. Cuando el nombre vulgar hace referencia a la persona que describió la especie o a quien fue dedicada, la cosa es diferente."


Comments from Pacheco: "NO. A manutenção do epônimo dedicado à Paul A. Schwartz me parece justificável. Como a maioria dos colegas, não vejo razões para a mudança."