Proposal (257) to South American Classification Committee


Change the English name of Melanodera melanodera from Black-throated Finch to Canary-winged Finch


Effect on SACC: change the English name of Melanodera melanodera from Black-throated Finch to Canary-winged Finch. 


Background: I would not write this proposal if I didn't think it was necessary due to a couple of points. One is that Black-throated Finch is an English name that not only is used for Melanodera melanodera but also for an Australian estrildid Poephila cincta. As such the English usage of Black-throated Finch is much more common for the estrildid than it is for the range restricted southern cone endemic Melanodera melanodera. It seems prudent that our bird needs the name change. The other issue is that a new name, White-bridled Finch, was published in Gill and Wright (2006) so assessing the appropriateness of that name is a question that I would like to see resolved given that an alternate name, Canary-winged Finch has been in wide usage for this species. 


Analysis: The first and only previous usage I have seen for "White-bridled Finch" was in Mazar Barnett and Pearman's (2001) Argentine checklist, and they reference the unpublished work of the committee, which eventually was published as Gill and Wright (2006). So the primary source for this name is Gill and Wright and the IOC committee on the standardization of English names.


The name White-bridled Finch has a nice quality, in that it is symmetrical to the English name of Melanodera xanthogramma the Yellow-bridled Finch. The yellow bridle around the black throat of xanthogramma is one of the most obvious features of this bird in life. However, with Melanodera melanodera the most obvious feature, and a very distinctive one at that for any South American passerine, is the largely yellow wings. In the bleak grasslands of southernmost Patagonia, these flashes of yellow are hard to miss! 


Canary-winged Finch is a name that has a history with this bird, I do not know exactly where the genesis was, but it has some traction out there. We listed it as a secondary name for this species in our Chile book, and a quick GOOGLE search resulted in the following: 341 hits for Canary-winged Finch, 13 hits for White-bridled Finch. I did not do the same for Black-throated, as most take you to the Australian species.


A final point, there is what I would call an "interesting amount" of geographic variation within xanthogramma, with the Tierra del Fuego birds being quite different in size and color of tail as compared to the northern birds. If further research reveals that three species are involved (for argument's sake) the symmetry of the two bridled names falls apart.


Recommendation: A new English name is needed for Melanodera melanodera in order to decrease confusion with an Australian estrildid finch. A new name, White-bridled Finch has been suggested. In the interest of decreasing confusion and name stability, I propose we use the already established name Canary-winged Finch. In addition, this has the unusual quality of actually describing the most obvious field character of the species! 


I suggest a Yes vote to change Melanodera melanodera to Canary-winged Finch.


Literature cited

Gill, F. and M. Wright. 2006. Birds of the World: Recommended English Names. Princeton U. Press, Princeton NJ. 


Mazar Barnett, J. and M. Pearman. 2001. Annotated List of the Birds of Argentina. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.



Alvaro Jaramillo, January 2007


Note from Remsen: Alvaro just pointed out to me that Dickinson (2003) used "Canary-winged"! Because Dickinson (2003) was our starting point, baseline list, with our initial list essentially a copy-paste from a draft of that, I think that the name must have been changed in proof stage once the estrildid conflict discovered. So, our name actually "ought" to be Canary-winged, with a proposal needed to change it to something else. Nonetheless, let's run this through the proposal system.





Comments from Stiles: "YES. Canary-winged is clearly the most appropriate and evocative and has been used frequently in recent years. "White-bridled" has neither precedence nor overwhelming aptness to recommend it, and I am not impressed with the "symmetry" argument given the possibility of the split that Alvaro mentions."


Comments from Nores [not an official vote on English names]: "YES. Me parece muy apropiada la propuesta ya que no puede haber dos aves con el mismo nombre, y como ha sido señalado por Jaramillo, considero que Canary-winged Finch es más apropiado y más usado que White-bridled Finch."


Comments from Robbins: "YES. I think the name Canary-winged seems quite appropriate."