Proposal (397) to South American Classification Committee


Change the English name of Phegornis mitchellii from Diademed Plover back to Diademed Sandpiper-Plover


Effect on SACC: change the English name of Phegornis mitchcellii from Diademed Plover to Diademed Sandpiper-Plover.

Background: This is a quick proposal to reinstate one of the most distinctive and useful names for a rather unusual species of the High Andes. Phegornis has gone by the name Diademed Sandpiper-Plover for decades. In all major works on the birds of the Andes and Southern Cone this species has gone by the name Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (Meyer de Schauensee 1970, Blake 1977, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990 etc. etc.). The only exceptions to this are the recent Birds of Peru (Schulenberg et al 2007), which I assume was following the SACC lead on names, although for that species it is one of the few for which an alternative English name is given in the book, that being Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. The other exception is Johnson and Goodall (1965), who called it Mitchell’s Plover, although in the account it is at one point called the “sandpiper-plover.” The name Diademed Sandpiper-Plover is also used in Sibley and Monroe, and the 6th edition of Clements. This is a well-established name, as established as a name can be for a little known Andean species. It also highlights two things unusual about this bird: the diademed pattern of the head, and the fact that this is a plover with a uniquely long and sandpiper-like bill. It is a unique species, the sole member of its genus, and deserves its unique name!

Analysis:  I assume that the shorter Diademed Plover is an IOC name suggestion. It seems to have appeared in the last few years, but I cannot pin down where exactly it came from. A change in the name would be warranted if there had been a change in taxonomy, or if the name was causing confusion. This is not the case. Diademed Sandpiper-Plover is distinctive, and a much better name for Phegornis than the shorter Diademed Plover which erases one of the most distinctive bits of Phegornis – the sandpiper-like bill.  There are other plovers that are diademed, Thinornis, the Shore Plover is also shows this pattern. However, its bill, although longish, is not nearly as long, fine, and sandpiper like as Phegornis. 

Recommendation: I have no idea why a well-established and excellent name has been changed to a simpler but less useful name. I think it is necessary to revert back to Diademed Sandpiper-Plover before the less useful name gathers more traction. As such it has not made inroads, in the field I only hear Phegornis named as the sandpiper-plover. It is frustrating to have to spend time trying to revert to names that should never have been changed to begin with!

I suggest a YES vote to change Phegornis mitchellii back to Diademed Sandpiper-Plover.

Alvaro Jaramillo, April 2009


Comments from Zimmer: “YES for all of the reasons nicely summarized by Alvaro.  This is a truly unique bird, and the longer name reflects that.”


Comments from Remsen: “YES.  There was no reason to destabilize and English name in use for many decades, and I like the notion of highlighting what a weird bird this is with a distinctive last name.  When I think of “plover,” I think of Charadrius and Pluvialis morphotypes, not Phegornis.”


Comments from Schulenberg: “YES. I too was mystified by the adoption of the name "Diademed Plover," by anyone, much less by baseline SACC. In "Birds of Peru," we followed SACC because that made our lives easier, not because we approved of the name "Diademed Plover." Usually I do prefer a shorter name over a longer one, but in this case I don't know why anyone would throw away the part of the name that distinguishes this odd and delightful species from any other plover.”


Comments from Stotz: “YES. Returns to the distinctive name that this distinctive species merits.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES. Unique bird, deserves a unique name.”