Proposal (#307) to South American Classification Committee

Change the English name of Brotogeris versicolurus to White-winged Parakeet

In reading the report of the SACC's decision (Proposal 224) to reject the proposed change from Canary-winged Parakeet to White-winged Parakeet I found that the vote was split, and most of the arguments both for and against were based on current usage (which is also split) and aesthetics. However I would like to present evidence that retaining the name "Canary-winged Parakeet" DOES cause confusion that will effect our ability to study the dynamics of populations of B. versicolurus and B. chiriri in the USA. The following arguments are based on information presented in The Birds of North America Species Accounts(s) on these species (Brightsmith 1999b).

In analyzing the history of the introduction of Yellow-chevroned Parakeet and White-winged Parakeet in to the United States, I found that B. versicolurus was sold in pet shops under the name "Canary-winged Parakeet" through 1972 until exports from Peru were declared illegal. Then starting in 1977 B. chiriri were sold in pet shops under the same name "Canary-winged Parakeet." Tracking the history of introduced parrots in the US is difficult at best as reporting them on Christmas counts etc. is spotty. The difficulty is doubly true for B. versicolurus and B. chiriri as the same English name was applied to both. I propose to you, as I proposed to Dick Banks in 1998, that the new English name White-winged Parakeet be applied to B. versicolurus not only for the obvious reason that it is UNIQUE in the genus and outstanding among parrots in general for having white in the wings, but because by changing the name and eliminating "Canary-winged Parakeet" US observers will be forced to identify "the small parakeet with yellow in the wings" and not just record it as the same old "Canary-winged Parakeet" they have always known. In addition when I see reports of "Canary-winged Parakeets" I always retain the doubt that it could be referring to either species. However, reports of White-winged and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets are unambiguous and this helps us track the populations in the USA.

Confusion of these two species IS a serious problem. For example check the book Parrots: A guide to parrot identification (Juniper and Parr 1998) where the illustrations of both species mixes characteristics of both species (Brightsmith 1999a).

In addition, the Aviculturists in the United States commonly use the name Canary-winged Parakeet for B. chiriri and White-winged Parakeet for B. versicolurus. While I recognize that there are many differences between the names used in aviculture and ornithology and not all can be addressed, this is the only example I know of where the same name is applied to two different species. (***Look for a reference to this in Brotogeris references)

I hope that the SACC will accept the English name White-winged Parakeet and help us avoid future confusion.

Literature Cited
Brightsmith, D. J. 1999a. Book review: Parrots a guide to parrots of the world. Auk 116:868-870.
Brightsmith, D. J. 1999b. White-winged Parakeet and Yellow-chevroned Parakeet. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Juniper, T., and M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: a guide to parrots of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Donald J. Brightsmith
September 2007


Comments from Remsen: "NO. I stand by previous comments on this, and I do not think that possible confusion that the name change or lack of it generates in the tiny, exotic portion of the species' range should govern what the species is called in its native range. The birders for whom the English name is an obstacle to identification are also the same ones for whom use of their observations as data for monitoring the introduced populations is unwise. Those who actually do monitor the species' distribution will have no trouble with a name change. To delete one of the best English names of any South American bird for the sake of confusion for bird listers visting south Florida is ridiculous."

Comments from Robbins: "NO. If there is considerable confusion in the exotic bird realm, then it might behoove them to use scientific name."

Comments from Jaramillo: "YES - My comments from the last time around still ring true to me. In other words, I have not changed my mind. Here they are: "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 favor 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 Zimmer: "NO. I keep going around and around on this one. In general, I do think it is less confusing when splitting a species to give entirely new names to both resulting splits. A clear exception would be when one of the resulting "new" species has a tiny range compared to the other, in which case, retention of the old name for the more widespread population may be desirable for the sake of stability. This is not the case with these Brotogeris. On the other hand, "Canary-winged Parakeet" is an excellent name for versicolorus, and it has precedence, as well as being used in recent references (e.g. HBW). I guess I would continue to come down on the side of retaining "Canary-winged", but this is one I don't feel strongly about."