Proposal (447) to South American Classification Committee


Change English names in Muscisaxicola griseus and M. alpinus


Chesser (2000) found that broadly defined Muscisaxicola alpinus was a paraphyletic species: the alpinus group of Colombia and Ecuador and the subspecies griseus, of Peru and Bolivia, are not sister taxa (Note 102).  The English name “Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant” was used for broadly defined M. alpinus by Meyer de Schauensee (1966) and all subsequent references.  Thus, a new English name was needed for the “new” species, griseus.


Rather than create a new name for griseus, Ridgely and Greenfield (2001) coined a new name for M. alpinus “Paramo Ground-Tyrant” but retained “Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant” M. griseus, and this has been followed by Gill and Wright (2006).  To retain the long-standing association between alpinus and the Plain-capped, Dickinson (2003) retained Plain-capped for narrowly defined M. alpinus and coined “Taczanowski's Ground-Tyrant” for M. griseus in honor of the person who described the taxon.  The current SACC classification followed Dickinson, as have HBW and Birds of Peru (Schulenberg et al.).


This proposal is to change the English names to follow Ridgely-Greenfield names.


Recommendation: We recommend a NO on this proposal (thus continuing to use SACC names) primarily because the Ridgely-Greenfield names unfortunately cause confusion by using the name “Plain-capped” for griseus even it was alpinus that had been called Plain-capped name in all literature 1966 to 2001.


[The various merits of the names themselves with respect to the taxa are not the catalyst for the proposal.  “Paramo” is a good habitat-based name for alpinus, and “Taczanowski’s is an appropriate name that recognizes an important figure in Peruvian ornithology and the person who described the species.]


References: see SACC Biblio site.


Richard E. Gibbons and Van Remsen, August 2010




Comments from Stotz: “NO.  The switchover of Plain-capped from alpinus to griseus is a problem, but so is the retention of Plain-capped for a narrower alpinus.  Normally (but not always) we change the English name when there is a significant change in the taxon in question.  In this case because of the two different solutions to the name issue developed by Ridgely and Greenfield, and by Dickinson, we have a solution that doesn’t require us developing a new name for either taxon: we call griseus Taczanowski’s Ground-Tyrant and alpinus Paramo Ground-Tyrant.”


Comments from Robbins: “NO.  Changing the name would cause further confusion, and as the proposal indicates, we have appropriate English names.”