Proposal (177) to South American Classification Committee


Reassign the genus of three macaws (Propyrrhura maracana (Vieillot 1816), Propyrrhura couloni (P. L. Sclater) 1876, and Propyrrhura auricollis (Cassin 1853) to Primolius Bonaparte 1857.


In Cotinga 5 (1996: 32-42), Whitney published an important subjective review of the large Neotropical genus Ara, and recommended that it be broken into several distinct genera to reflect the diversity it contained. In particular, Whitney recommended that A. maracana (Vieillot 1816), A. couloni P. L. Sclater 1876 and A. auricollis Cassin 1853 be reassigned to the genus Propyrrhura Ribeiro 1920. Such a move had earlier been advocated by Sick (1990). Collar (1997: 425-26) adopted the suggestion of Sick and Whitney, a move which was followed by Juniper & Parr (1998: 429-31). The South American Checklist Committee has also adopted the name Propyrrhura for the three macaws in question.


Penhallurick (2001: 38-39) pointed out that the choice of Propyrrhura Ribeiro 1920 overlooked the availability of an earlier name available for the three species: Primolius Bonaparte 1857. Some confusion undoubtedly results from two distinct citations for Primolius Bonaparte 1857.


Salvadori (1891: 151) cited a paper in Comptes Rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des Sciences, Paris44, p. 596 (Bonaparte 1857a). The name here is undoubtedly a nomen nudum and thus unavailable.


Neave (1940: 889) gave a different citation:
Bonaparte (1857) 
Remarques à propos des Observations de M. Émile Blanchard sur les Caractères ostéologiques chez les Oiseaux de la famille des Psittacides, et Tableau des genres des Perroquets disposés en séries parallèles (Bonaparte 1857b).


This listed three species under the genus Primolius: auricollis Cassin; maracana Vieillot; and makawanna J. F. Gmelin (= Psittacus manilata Boddaert, 1783), but Bonaparte does not designate a type. Salvadori (1891: 151), under the synonymy of Ara Lacépède, 1799, listed A. auricollis as the type of Primolius Bonaparte, 1857. This is sufficient as a subsequent designation.


The ICZN Rules (1999: 28) stated, in relation to the Principle of Priority, (23.9.1) prevailing usage must be maintained when the following conditions are both met: the senior synonym or homonym has not been used as a valid name after 1899


However, Wolters (1975-82) used Primolius as a subgenus of Ara with the notation. Thus, Primolius Bonaparte 1857 is available according to the ICZN's rules. In addition, Dickinson (2003: 196) and Peterson ( have adopted Primolius as the correct genus for maracana (Vieillot 1816), couloni (P. L. Sclater 1876) and auricollis (Cassin, 1853).



Bonaparte, C. L. (1857a) Tableau des genres des Perroquets disposés en séries parallèles Comptes Rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des Sciences, Paris44, p. 596.

Bonaparte, C. L. (1857b) Remarques à propos des Observations de M. Émile Blanchard sur les Caractères ostéologiques chez les Oiseaux de la famille des Psittacides, et Tableau des genres des Perroquets disposés en séries parallèles.

Collar, N. J. (1997), Family PSITTACIDAE(Parrots), Pp.280-479 in del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (eds.), Handbook of the Birds of the World, 4, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Dickinson, E. C. (ed.) (2003) The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Revised and enlarged 3rd edn, Christopher Helm, London.

Juniper, T. & Parr, M. (1998) Parrots: A Guide to the Parrots of the World. Pica Press, Sussex.

Penhallurick, J. M. (2001) Primolius Bonaparte,1857 has priority over Propyrrhura Ribeiro, 1920. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club121 (1): 38-39.

Peterson, A. (Accessed 14/05/05)

Salvadori, T. (1891) Catalogue of the Birds in the British Museum, vol. 20, Psittaci, Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), London.

Sick, H. (1990) Notes on the taxonomy of Brazilian parrots. Ararajuba 1: 111-12.

Whitney, B. M. (1996) Flight behavior and other field characteristics of the genera of Neotropical parrots. Cotinga 5: 32-42.

Wolters, H. E. (1975-82) Die Vogelarten der Erde. Paul Parey, Hamburg & Berlin.


John Penhallurick, May 2005




Addendum from Remsen: "I circulated this to some experts on nomenclature, and here's what I got so far:


"From Steven Gregory <sgregory.avium[at]>:

"Richmond sorted this in 1917, 'Generic Names applied to Birds etc.'. He places Primolius in a list (1917: 571) entitled Nomina Nuda at First Citations in "Index", here he corrects the date from March 1857 [C.R. Ac. Sci., 44, p. 596.] to April 1857. Further on in the main list of generic names (1917: 617) he cites:


"Primolius Bonaparte, Remarques Observ. Blanchard Psittacides (fn 1), April, 1857, p. 6. Type, Arara auricollis Cassin (fn 2) (Subsequent designation; Ridgway, 1916.)


"in footnote (1) he says: "A nomen nudum in the original paper, published in Comptes Rendus (See note under Bolborhynchus.)", where we find (1917: 580): "This is a repaged reprint of two papers from the Comptes Rendus, vol. 44, 1857 (No. 11, pp. 534-539; No. 12, pp. 595-597), with important additions and changes. It is entitled "Remarques à propos des Observations de M. Émile Blanchard sur les Caractères ostéologiques chez les Oiseaux de la famille des Psittacides et Tableau des genres de Perroquets disposés en séries parallèles," pp. 1-9. and its receipt was acknowledged by the Academy at the meeting of Apr. 13, 1857."


"Footnote (2) lists the species originally included: "Primolus, Bp., comprend les autres Aráes à jous poilues, auricollis, Cass., maracana, Vieill., et makawanna, Gm."  The subsequent designation by Salvadori, 1895, Cat. Birds Brit. Mus., 20, p. 151. antedates that of Ridgway, 1916.  I assumed that this satisfied the requirements of having been published, and made available, with a list of included species. Which of the two subsequent designations is deemed correct may need some further investigation, as I do not have Ridgway, 1916, as cited by Richmond."


"Then, in response from Normand David:

"Indeed, on page 795 of Comptes rendus number 44 (1857), we read:

'Bulletin bibliographique L'académie a reçu, dans la séance du 13 avril 1857, les ouvrages dont voici les titres: Remarques à propos des Observations de M. Émile Blanchard sur les Caractères ostéologiques chez les Oiseaux de la famille des Psittacides; et Tableau des genres de Perroquets disposés en séries parallèles; par S A Monseigneur le Prince C.-L. Bonaparte; br. in 4.


"Most likely, "br." means broché (stapled).


"As far as I can see, the above work is a published work (Art. 8), Primolius Bonaparte, 1857, has been used after 1899 (, and I see no technical reason preventing the use of Primolius.  Sorry for the trouble and thanks to Steven.” Normand David"


"From Edward Dickinson: 'I consider Primolius to be available. Whether it is correct to use it depends on whether these species justify a generic name of their own and if so whether this is the oldest name available for them. In Howard & Moore we used it presuming that these two questions had been answered. We footnoted Penhallurick (2001)."





Comments from Remsen: "YES. I am not qualified to evaluate this proposal, but those who are (comments above) support the name change."


Comments from Zimmer: "I'll defer to others who have more experience with the intricacies of nomenclatural priority, and vote YES."


Comments from Robbins: "YES, based on the additional comments by Gregory and David."


Comments from Silva: "YES, based on comments by Gregory & David."


Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - based on the comments from experts on the subject."


Comments from Nores: "NO. Aunque los argumentos mostrados por Penhallurick y los especialistas consultados muestran claramente que Primolius tiene prioridad sobre Propyrrhura, no se ha tenido en cuenta el nombre Macrocercus, que Vieillot utilizó en 1816 para denominar a la especie maracana y que según el ICZN tiene prioridad sobre los otros dos nombres. (Article 23.1. The valid name of a taxon is the oldest available name applied to it, unless that name has been invalidated or another name is given precedence by any provision of the Code or by any ruling of the Commission).


"Por lo tanto propongo poner las tres especies en el género Macrocercus."


Comments from Steven Gregory solicited by Remsen:"


"Vieillot's Macrocercus (Analyse, p. 26) originally included "Ara rouge" [= Psittacus macao Linnaeus, 1758 = Ara macao (Linnaeus, 1758)] and "Perruche-Ara" [= P. makawuanna Gmelin, 1788 = Orthopsittaca manilata (Boddaert, 1783) non Macrocercus maracana Vieillot, 1816, vide Salvadori, 1891, pp. 163-166]. Macrocercus cannot, therefore, be the generic name for a group of species which include neither of these species (Primolius). The type of Macrocercus is Psittacus macao Linnaeus, 1758 by subsequent designation, G. R. Gray 1855."


"Further, Macrocercus Vieillot, 1816, would appear to be a junior homonym of Macrocercus O.F. Müller, 1773 [Trematoda]. Even if this latter were a nomen oblitum, or itself in synonymy, we should be very wary of using names that do not have a clear-cut priority. This is, of course, somewhat academic now (I think) but a point worth noting."


Comments from Pacheco: "YES. O uso de Primolius Bonaparte, 1857 como válido para o "nome do grupo de gênero agregando as três espécies envolvidas de pequenas araras, está plenamente amparado pelas regras do I.C.Z.N (1999), como bem demonstrado pelos nomenclaturistas externos consultados."