Proposal (34) to South American Classification Committee
Change English name of Furnarius figulus
Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list from a "Meyer de Schauensee" name to a "Ridgely-Tudor" name.
Background: Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970) changed the English name of Furnarius figulus from Cory & Hellmayr's (1925) "Twice-banded Hornero" to "Wing-banded Hornero." Sibley & Monroe (1990) also used "Wing-banded Hornero." Sick (1993) used "Tail-banded Hornero." Ridgely & Tudor (1994) used "Band-tailed Hornero", with the following note:
"All the horneros to some degree show a wing-band. Calling F. figulus the Wing-banded Hornero (Meyer de Schauensee 1966, 1970) implies that it alone has such a band. However, this is the only hornero that ever shows a tail-band."
Remsen (2003) maintained Meyer de Schauensee's name "Wing-banded Hornero."
Analysis: This is just the first of many, many proposals we need to consider on English names. The recurrent theme will be the trade-off towards maintaining the stability of Meyer de Schauensee (and often older) names that were used for 30 or more years, versus using Bob's newer names, which are usually "better" and now have a nearly 10-year tradition of their own. However, in contrast to many other cases we should consider, pre-Ridgely-Tudor stability of the name is minimal.
There is no question that Bob's "Band-tailed" is somewhat better in this case, although it should be noted that the "band" on the tail is really just a variable amount of blackish tipping on many, not all, of the rectrices, and as Ridgely & Tudor (1994) pointed out, some individuals have none. Thus, the emphasis on this mark, although diagnostic within Furnarius, is somewhat misleading. The band on the tail is much less conspicuous than the one on the wing.
Recommendation: I will vote "NO" on this proposal, but without strong feeling one way or another, for the same reason that I kept the older name in Handbook of Birds of the World: in my opinion, striving to improve names is a never-ending task that erases the only benefit standardized English names have, namely stability. Therefore, I favor such changes for Neotropical species only in those cases in which the Eisenmann/Meyer de Schauensee name was truly erroneous or misleading about the appearance of behavior of the bird (e.g. "Crested Foliage-gleaner" for Anabazenops dorsalis). In those cases, however, in which the name is not "diagnostic" for the species, as in "Wing-banded" with respect to other horneros, or could be improved, I still favor leaving it alone. In North America, where English names do indeed have a longer tradition, we continue to maintain many English names that are truly erroneous and even ridiculous, such as "Hairy Woodpecker," "Evening Grosbeak," "Hermit Warbler," and many others, for the sake of stability.
CORY, C. B., AND C. E. HELLMAYR. 1925. Catalogue of birds of the Americas Field Mus. Nat. Hist. Publ., Zool. Ser., vol. 13, pt. 4.
MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1966. The species of birds of South America and their distribution. Livingston Publishing Co., Narberth, Pennsylvania.
MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1970. A guide to the birds of South America. Livingston Publishing Co., Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.
REMSEN, J. V., JR. 2003 (in press). Family Furnariidae (ovenbirds). Pp. #-# in "Handbook of the Birds of the World," Vol. 8. Broadbills to Tapaculos (del Hoyo, J. et al., eds.). Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
RIDGELY, R. S., AND G. TUDOR. 1994. The birds of South America, vol. 2. Univ. Texas Press, Austin.
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, July 2003
Comments from Schulenberg: "My vote: "NO". A name is a name. It's nice if the name matches what it represents, but this is not necessary (as Van cited with long-established, but less than accurate, English names of North American birds). What a name does not have to do is *uniquely* characterize what it represents. Do we, for example, rename Tyrannus melancholicus [Tropical Kingbird] because it is not the only kingbird that breeds in the tropics, or Cercomacra serva [Black Antbird] because other antbirds are black? I don't think so ... So, I'm not bothered by the fact that other horneros may have wing bands, and I don't see a compelling reason to change the name."
Comments from Robbins:" YES, I agree with Bob on this as enough of an improvement to merit the change."
Comments from Zimmer: "I vote "NO" on proposal to change the English name of Furnarius figulus from "Wing-banded" to "Band-tailed" Hornero. The latter name may be better, but frankly, in my attempts to switch to Bob's suggested name, I kept getting confused as to whether it was "Band-tailed" or "Tail-banded"! "Wing-banded" seems easier for me to keep straight, and it does have the advantage of stability. I agree with Tom's basic point that these English names need not imply exclusivity (e.g. Tropical Kingbird is not the only kingbird in the tropics)."
Comments from Silva: "No. I agree with Van's points."
Comments from Jaramillo: "NO. Vote for stability. I don't mind a bad name; the purpose of a name is not so much to inform you of characteristics as to give a specific tag to the taxon you are talking about. Perhaps if a name was ridiculously bad, then changing it would be a better option, in this case it is not."