Proposal (38) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Certhiaxis cinnamomeus


Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list from a newer "Hilty-Brown" name back to an older "Meyer de Schauensee".


Background: Cory & Hellmayr's (1925) and Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970) used the English name "Yellow-throated Spinetail" for Certhiaxis cinnamomeus. Hilty & Brown (1986) changed this to "Yellow-chinned Spinetail," and this was followed by Sibley & Monroe (1990), Ridgely & Tudor (1994), Ridgely & Greenfield (2001), Hilty (2003), and Remsen (2003). Ridgely & Tudor (1994) noted:


"We agree with Hilty and Brown (1986) who slightly altered this species' English name from 'Yellow-throated' to better reflect that the yellow is so inconspicuous."


Analysis: This is another 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 newer names, which are usually "better" and now have a 10-15 year tradition of their own.


In contrast to a number of current and forthcoming proposals, in this case, the newer name "Yellow-chinned Spinetail" is the one we already have in our baseline list. Technically, the yellow does extend slightly farther into the throat than the "official" chin, but not by much. Bird species named "Yellow-throated Something" typically have most or all of the throat yellow, which is certainly not the case in this species. Thus, not only is "Yellow-chinned" more accurate, but it had an earlier origin (1986) than the Ridgely-Tudor names and was incorporated into the widely used Sibley-Monroe volume and will also be used in the Handbook of the Birds of the World. Also, it is barely different from the older name; I suspect most users do not even notice the change. Although I do not believe that English names should be changed solely for the sake of helping birders unfamiliar with the species to recognize it, "Yellow-chinned" is a quantum improvement in this regard over "Yellow-throated" despite the small degree of change.


Recommendation: I will vote "NO" on this proposal (i.e., stick with the newer "Yellow-chinned").


Literature Cited:

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.

HILTY, S. L. 2003. Birds of Venezuela. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

HILTY, S. L., AND W. L. BROWN. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

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 P. J. GREENFIELD. 2001. The birds of Ecuador. Vol. I. Status, distribution, and taxonomy. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

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.


Van Remsen, July 2003




Comments from Schulenberg: "NO. This proposal seems a little confusing to me, but if a "no" vote is an endorsement of the recent shift from "Yellow-throated" to "Yellow-chinned", then that's what I'm voting for. As I said, I don't like changing English names of birds (on the grounds of stability), but I'm not doctrinaire, and this change is subtle enough, and warranted enough, to pass muster."


Comments from Robbins: "NO, let’s keep the better English name "Yellow-chinned".


Comments from Stotz: "I vote YES for returning to the not quite as good Yellow-throated Spinetail over the newer and better Yellow-chinned Spinetail, based simply on the fact that I don't think we should mess with Meyer de Schauensee names just to improve their accuracy. I don't think the fact that this was a minor change (one that most wouldn't notice) makes it any less negative. "


Comments from Zimmer: "NO. The yellow chin is hard enough to see in the field much of the time; forget about looking for a yellow throat. This is a good example of a misleading name that needed to be changed -- no way should we change it back again."


Comments from Stiles: "NO (if anything, accuracy is reduced, in my experience)."


Comments from Jaramillo: "NO. Keep as Yellow-chinned Spinetail. This English name is now pretty well entrenched, so much so that most people out in the field are probably more familiar with it than with the old name. Given that the newer name is an improvement, and is well entrenched I vote to keep it."