Proposal (334) to South American Classification Committee


Modify English names of some Poecilotriccus flycatchers


Effect on South American Checklist: This proposal would change all the group-names in Poecilotriccus to Tody-Flycatcher from the current mix of Tody-Tyrant and Tody-Flycatcher.


Background: At one time (Meyer De Schauensee 1970 for example), the genus Poecilotriccus was considered to contain only one species, P. ruficeps. But beginning in the late 1970's with Traylor (1979)'s addition of capitalis, albifacies (formerly in Todirostrum) and andrei (formerly in Taeniotriccus), the genus has grown. Lanyon (1988) based on syringeal morphology suggested that a number of erstwhile Todirostrum, including calopterus, fumifrons, latirostris, plumbeiceps, pulchellus, russatus, senex, and sylvia belonged in Poecilotriccus as well. Additionally since that time, an allospecies of ruficeps, P. luluae has been described (Johnson and Jones 2001).  Poecilotriccus ruficeps was known as Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrant. When capitalis and albifacies were moved into Poecilotriccus, their names were adjusted to Tody-Tyrants first, it appears, by Ridgely and Tudor (1994). However, the later additions have retained their names as Tody-Flycatchers, both in the SACC list and in HBW (Fitzpatrick 2004). The placement of Taeniotriccus andrei in Poecilotriccus has never been generally accepted. It was not followed by Ridgely and Tudor, SACC or HBW and as far as I can tell has always retained the English name Black-chested Tyrant. It will not be further considered in this proposal.


Analysis: The notes regarding this situation in the SACC checklist say:


"Note that the English names of former Todirostrum exported to Poecilotriccus did not change from "Tody-Flycatcher" to "Tody-Tyrant." Proposal to change them needed? <Or better to leave as is for the sake of stability and to encode into the English name their former placement in Todirostrum?"


However, there is a third possibility. Only two of the twelve species in the genus have a long history of being called Tody-Tyrants, and recent genetic work by Tello and Bates (2007) indicate that Poecilotriccus and Todirostrum are sister taxa, and a clade separate from the larger, messier clade containing the other taxa known as Tody-Tyrants (among other things). This suggests that the appropriate English name for the species in Poecilotriccus is Tody-Flycatcher, not Tody-Tyrant. I propose that we change the four species of Poecilotriccus currently called tody-tyrants to Tody-Flycatchers as follows:


Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrant change to Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher
Johnson's Tody-Tyrant change to Johnson's Tody-Flycatcher
Black-and-white Tody-Tyrant change to Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher
White-cheeked Tody-Tyrant change to White-cheeked Tody-Flycatcher


This will return Black-and-white and White-cheeked to the names they bore until Ridgely and Tudor changed them to tody-tyrants in 1994. It will create new names for Rufous-crowned and Johnson's, but ones that are consistent with the rest of the genus, and more consistent with the phylogenetic data within the group.


Recommendation: I recommend a Yes vote on this proposal. I think use of Tody-Flycatcher for all of Poecilotriccus makes the most sense in terms of stability and consistency of the names, while retaining some modicum of phylogenetic information within the English names.


Literature Cited:

FITZPATRICK, J. W. 2004. Family Tyrannidae (tyrant-flycatchers). Pp. 170-462 in "Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 9. Cotingas to pipits and wagtails." (J. del Hoyo et al., eds.). Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

JOHNSON, N. K., AND R. E. JONES. 2001. A new species of tody-tyrant (Tyrannidae: Poecilotriccus) from northern Peru. Auk 118: 334-341.

LANYON, W. E. 1988b. A phylogeny of the flatbill and tody-tyrant assemblages of tyrant flycatchers. Amer. Mus. Novitates 2923: 1-41.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1970. A guide to the birds of South America. Livingston Publishing Co., Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

RIDGELY, R. S., AND G. TUDOR. 1994. The birds of South America, vol. 2. Univ. Texas Press, Austin.

TELLO, J. G., AND J. M. BATES. 2007. Molecular phylogenetics of the tody-tyrant and flatbill assemblage of tyrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae). Auk 124: 134-154.

TRAYLOR, M. A., JR. 1979a. Subfamily Elaeniinae. Pp. 3-112 in "Check-list of birds of the World, Vol. 8" (Traylor, M. A., Jr., ed.). Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Douglas Stotz, March 2008





Comments from Zimmer: "YES. I think Doug has pieced together the best solution for dealing with this mess. It involves the least amount of change, while retaining previously established names and maximizing the phylogenetic information conveyed by the English names."


Comments from Stiles: "YES. Both phylogenetic content and consistency with this evidence make this change of English names desirable."


Comments from Remsen: "YES. Although I usually vote NO on name changes, I doubt most people can remember whether they are called Tody-Flycatcher or Tody-Tyrant, and given the turbulent generic boundaries, stability is not a core issue. The change is subtle, sensible, and actually restores some older names, as Doug points out."