Proposal (242) to South American Classification Committee


Change English names of three species of mockingbirds in the Galapagos Islands


Summary: The English common names of three of the four species of mockingbirds occurring in the Galapagos Islands, not including Galapagos Mockingbird (Mimus [Nesomimus] parvulus), appear frequently in two forms, an "English" version and an "English-Spanish" version. (Galapagos Mockingbird Mimus [Nesomimus] parvulus does NOT have this problem, with only the one form of the English common name in use, and that always being Galapagos Mockingbird.) The proposal is to update the common names of the three species Mimus [Nesomimus] macdonaldi, M. melanotis, and M. trifasciatus to current usage and equate these with current official island names. The names appear below:



 Old Common Name

 Proposed Common Name

Mimus [Nesomimus] macdonaldi

Hood Mockingbird

 Española Mockingbird

Mimus [Nesomimus] melanotis

Chatham Mockingbird

 San Cristobal Mockingbird

Mimus [Nesomimus] trifasciatus

Charles Mockingbird

 Floreana Mockingbird


General Discussion: The two common name forms exist because the three species in question, Mimus [Nesomimus] macdonaldi, M. melanotis, and M. trifasciatus, are all single-island endemics, and have always borne the name of the island on which they occur. However, the names commonly used for the islands have changed, and as they have changed, some authors and observers have updated the common names of the mockingbirds, while others have not.


Most scientific articles since about 1980 have used the "new" names (the Proposed Common Names), and all recent (since 2000 publications and unpublished reports have used those names. Some publications prior to 1980 used the new names. For example: Harris, M. P., 1968, Egg-eating by Galapagos mockingbirds, Condor 70: 269-270 used "Floreana Island Mockingbird" (with "Charles" in parentheses), although Harris, M. P., 1973, The Galapagos avifauna, Condor 75:265-278, used the old common names.


Here is a list of publications on the mockingbirds, or which mention the mockingbirds, since 2000. All have used the "new" Proposed Common Names, including the 2006 evolutionary study by Arbogast et al.:


Grant, P. R., R.L. Curry, and B.R. Grant, 2000, A remnant population of the Floreana mockingbird on Champion island, Galapagos, Biological Conservation 92: 285-290

von Lippke de Maxson, I. S., 2000, Effects of social rank on breeding success in the Española Mockingbird, Nesomimus macdonaldi, as revealed by microsatellite parentage testing, M. S. thesis, Villanova University

Wikelski, M., J. Foufopoulos, H. Vargas, and H. Snell. 2004. Galápagos Birds and Diseases: Invasive Pathogens as Threats for Island Species. Ecology and Society 9(1): 5. [online] URL: <>

Thiel, T., N. K. Whiteman, A. Tirapé, M. I. Baquero, V. Cedeño, T. Walsh, G. Jiménez U., and P. G. Parker. 2005. Characterization of canarypox-like viruses infecting endemic birds in the Galápagos Islands. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 41:342-353.

Arbogast, B. S., S. V. Drovetski, R. L. Curry, P. T. Boag, G. Seutin, P. R. Grant, B. R. Grant, and D. J. Anderson, 2006, The origin and diversification of Galápagos mockingbirds, Evolution 60:370-382.


Use of the Proposed Common Names also has the advantage that it is harmonized with the Spanish names in common use for these same species, which are "Cucuve de Española", "Cucuve de San Cristóbal", and "Cucuve de Floreana."


Proposal for common names of Mimus [Nesomimus] macdonaldi, M. [Nesomimus] melanotis, and M. [Nesomimus] trifasciatus: I would suggest the common names for these species:


Mimus [Nesomimus] macdonaldi Española Mockingbird

Mimus [Nesomimus] melanotis San Cristobal Mockingbird

Mimus [Nesomimus] trifasciatus Floreana Mockingbird


David A. Wiedenfeld, August 2006


Addendum from Remsen: Gill and Wright (2006) use a mix, namely Floreana, Hood, and San Cristobal.





Comments from Remsen: "YES. The new names are already in use by the ornithologists who work on the birds, so I see no point in perpetuating the old ones."


Comments solicited from Peter Grant: "The proposal from David Wiedenfeld to give Spanish names to the mockingbirds is well argued and I agree with it. We all use the Spanish names, and I have done so for at least 30 years."


Comments from Stiles: "YES. A change long overdue."


Comments from Stotz: "YES. I recognize that this is hardly scientific, but I did Google searches on the English names, both the old names and the new ones. For Floreana and San Cristobal, there were essentially equal numbers of hits of old and new names, but not many for either. However for Hood/ Espanola Mockingbird, it was strongly biased toward Hood Mockingbird (11500 to 392). The English names are the names in the current field guides, and people routinely go to Espanola, unlike Floreana and San Cristobal, and so see the mockingbird there. I am loath to give up familiar well-used names. But, given that the Spanish names for the individual islands has essentially completely taken over, even for tourists, the logic of maintaining the Hood Mockingbird, endemic to the island of Espanola is hard to maintain."


Comments from Jaramillo: "YES. Having led trips to the Galapagos I have always found it confusing and frustrating to have a mismatch between the bird names and the island names, since they are single island endemics. In this case, the issue of name stability goes out the window as matching to the current name of the islands is the situation which causes the least amount of confusion."


Additional comment from David Wiedenfeld: "One comment on Doug's comment: Although it is true that few people see Floreana Mockingbird (because it no longer occurs on Floreana proper, although many people do go to Floreana), many tourists do go to San Cristóbal, and if they're birders or even if they're not and are just paying attention to what they see, certainly see it there. And no one now (in English or Spanish) refers to the island of San Cristóbal as Chatham, so it makes more sense for it to be San Cristóbal Mockingbird rather than Chatham Mocker."