Proposal (#224) to South American Classification Committee

Change English name of Brotogeris versicolurus

Effect on SACC list: If accepted, this would change the English name of Brotogeris versicolurus
to the one used in AOU (1998).

Background: The English name of Brotogeris versicolurus has traditionally been "Canary-winged Parakeet." With the taxon chiriri now generally ranked (but see Juniper & Parr 1998) as a species ("Yellow-chevroned Parakeet") rather than as a subspecies of B. versicolurus, some authors (e.g., AOU 1998, Ridgely & Greenfield 2001, Forshaw 2006) have changed the English name of the latter to "White-winged Parakeet", whereas others retained "Canary-winged" for narrowly defined B. versicolurus (e.g., Sibley & Monroe 1990, Sick 1993, Collar 1997, Rodner et al. 2000, Dickinson 2003).


Reasons for changing SACC list to "White-winged" are as follows:

1. It is typically a wise move to create new English names for all the taxa newly ranked as species from a more broadly defined previous "concept" rather than use the name formerly applied to the more broadly defined species; this prevents confusion by emphasizing the new species limits. [The exceptions have usually been in those cases in which the split refers only to a marginal, small population (such as Red-shouldered Blackbird split from widespread Red-winged Blackbird)]. This was the rationale for the AOU's (1998) use of White-winged for B. versicolurus once chiriri split from it.

2. "White-winged" does describe the most obvious plumage difference between versicolurus, which has conspicuous white inner primaries and secondaries, and chiriri, which as green and blue remiges.

3. It is reasonable to expect North American and South American AOU lists to match, particularly in subjective matters.

Reasons for NOT changing to "White-winged" are as follows:

1. Several widely used references, including HBW and Dickinson (2003), stuck with "Canary-winged", presumably because it is a long-established name (since at least Meyer de Schauensee 1966) with some "personality."

2. "Canary-winged" is still accurate, because the secondary coverts of versicolurus are conspicuously bright canary yellow, slightly more extensively than those of chiriri. [In fact, in my opinion, the mix of white and yellow enhances the appeal of the name, given the way cagebird canaries often have this same mix.]. Further, note that earlier in the century, when chiriri was considered a separate species, Cory (1918) used the English name "Yellow-winged Paroquet" for B. virescens (= versicolurus), so the emphasis on yellow in the English name can't be grossly inaccurate.

3. If SACC stays with "Canary-winged", I strongly suspect North American AOU would follow SACC, given that this is strictly an exotic species in North America, and that "White-winged" is a recent invention with little historical momentum.

Recommendation: I have none. Either one is fine with me. I'll vote depending on comments received.


AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th ed. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

COLLAR, N. 1997. Family Psittacidae (parrots). Pp. 280-477 in "Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 4. Sandgrouse to cuckoos" (J. del Hoyo et al., eds.). Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

CORY, C. B. 1918. Catalogue of birds of the Americas. Field Mus. Nat. Hist. Publ., Zool. Ser., vol. 13, pt. 2, no. 1.

DICKINSON, E. C. (ed.). 2003. The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the World, Revised and enlarged 3rd Edition. Christopher Helm, London, 1040 pp.

FORSHAW, J. M. 2006. Parrots of the world. An identification guide. Princeton University Press.

JUNIPER, T. AND M. PARR. 1998. Parrots: a guide to parrots of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

RIDGELY , R. S., AND P. J. GREENFIELD. 2001. The birds of Ecuador. Vol. I. Status, distribution, and taxonomy. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

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.

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

Van Remsen, June 2006

[Note: Thanks to Johan Ingels and Ian Paulsen for help with references.]

Addendum from Remsen: Gill and Wright (2006) use "White-winged" and "Yellow-chevroned."


Comments from Steve Hilty: "As an interested but non-voting observer I offer the following perspective on English names for the parakeet Brotogeris versicolurus and allied B. chiriri.

"There's no doubt the name "Canary-winged" has more cachet than the name "White-winged." On the other hand, both names have been used for versicolurus with White-winged gaining acceptance since chiriri was split off and called Yellow-chevroned. In the field, when this bird is flying, it's the "white" that is obvious, much more than the narrow yellow wing covert band. Secondly, calling one species Canary-winged and the other Yellow-chevroned invites confusion because both names mean "yellow" and that doesn't help to distinguish these two birds. Versicolurus is mainly white-winged, chiriri is the one that's yellow (or golden) and this is easy to remember, a distinction that is genuinely helpful to English-language users of these names. I think the AOU, and Ridgely and others who have been using White-winged, even if it's less imaginative and with less history, have got it right.

"On the other hand, if the two populations versicolurus and chiriri are merged, then Canary-winged is the name with the greatest longevity and probably the most appropriate one to use. I might also add that it's a shame, perhaps, that the name Canary-winged couldn't have been transferred to the other species (chiriri) because the English name, Yellow-chevroned is awkward and, to me, sounds contrived. Nevertheless, I wouldn't change this one either."

Comments from Zimmer: "NO". Van makes a good point regarding the combination of yellow and white on the wing of versicolorus being reminiscent of canaries. This, combined with the distinctiveness of the name (not just another combination of a color and a body part), the fact that it predates "White-winged" and the fact that some major references, including HBW, have stuck with "Canary-winged", in my opinion, trumps the argument of the need to concoct a new name for both of the split forms (a practice that I am generally in favor of)."

Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - change to White-winged Parakeet, I think if at all possible giving both members of a split a new name from the inclusive species is a good move (adjusting for the issues mentioned by Van in the proposal). So I am in favour of this, and in addition White-winged has quickly gained favor in the last few years so it does not seem to be causing much confusion out there. In fact retention of Canary-winged for versicolorus would be more confusing for the average user of English names at this point. I don't see any reason to stand in the way of this change, name stability and priority of names are concepts generally applied to decrease confusion. In this case, the new name White-winged is the one that decreases confusion for users, so in the "spirit but not the letter" of the concepts I think it is a good move to change the name of versicolorus."

Comments from Stiles: "YES. The name "White-winged" is much more descriptive and accurate; it's what one immediately notices in the field and it is a feature unique to versicolurus among all the parakeet-types I know. Leave "canary-winged" for the more inclusive species if one prefers not to split off chiriri."

Comments from Robbins: "YES. On the whole White-winged Parakeet seems like a better name for Brotogeris versicolurus."

Comments from Stotz: "NO. I guess I have always thought of the Amazonian population as the Canary-winged Parakeet, even when chiriri was part of it. Yes, it has white in the wing, but it also has yellow, and as Van notes this really does give the impression of a Canary. I can't see that any confusion is engendered by maintaining the historical name Canary-winged."

Comments from Remsen: "NO. Just can't see dumping one of the better English names.