Proposal (453) to South American Classification Committee


Recognize the parulid genus Oreothlypis


NB:  This proposal was rejected by the AOU-CLC-N&MA because of the comment added here at the end.  The separation was accepted but the species were merged into Oreothlypis.  The latter treatment was (or soon will be) published by Lovette et al., and is in the 51st Supplement to the AOU Check-list, Auk 2010,127:726-744.


Recognize the Parulid genus Leiothlypis


Sangster (2008) pointed out that “three independent molecular phylogenetic studies indicated that Vermivora, as presently constituted, in polyphyletic.”  .  The relevant studies, known to all of us, are Avise et al. 1980, Klein et al. 2004, Lovette and Hochachka 2006, and Lovette and Bermingham 2002.  The division of the genus is supported by vocal and skeletal characters (Webster 1997).  Lovette (pers. comm.) says that his data support this and associated proposals.


The genus Vermivora now has as its type species Certhia pinus Linnaeus, the Blue-winged Warbler, and includes its sister species chrysoptera, the Golden-winged Warbler, and presumably bachmani, Bachman’s Warbler, not included in the molecular studies.  These three species continue to constitute Vermivora.  But see a separate proposal on the name of V. pinus.


The other species now in Vermivora form a closely related group and constitute a separate genus.  No generic name has been based on any of these species, but Sangster now proposes Leiothlypis, with the type species Sylvia peregrina Wilson, the Tennessee Warbler.  Acceptance of this work means that the included species will be listed as:


Leiothlypis peregrina (Wilson, 1811)

L. celata (Say, 1823)

L. ruficapilla (Wilson, 1811)

L. virginiae (Baird, 1860)

L. crissalis (Salvin and Godman, 1889) and

L. luciae (Cooper, 1861).


I recommend adoption of this new generic classification and the heading,


Genus Leiothlypis Sangster


Leiothlypis Sangster, 2008, Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 128: 210.  Type, by original designation, Sylvia peregrina Wilson.




Avise et al. 1980.  J. Heredity 71:303-310.

Klein et al.  2004.  J. Carib. Ornithology

Lovette and Bermingham 2002.  Auk 119:695-714.

Lovette and Hochachka 2006.  Ecology 87;S14-S28.

Sangster, G.  2008.  A revision of Vermivora (Parulidae), with the description of a new genus.  Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 128: 207-211. 


Richard C. Banks

10 Nov. 2009



Comment by Lovette, accepted by majority of committee:


“YES to the idea that this group should be split from Vermivora, but a weak NO vote to the name Leiothlypis for reasons related to the following proposal. The evidence for separating Leiothlypis from Vermivora is sound, but there is a pure judgment call to be made relating to the name for the new group. One reasonable possibility is to recognize Leiothlypis, as proposed here. There is good evidence that these species form a monophyletic group. The alternative possibility is to recognize a slightly more inclusive monophyletic group comprised of these “Leiothlypis” taxa plus their sister lineage, which comprises the taxa we currently know as Parula superciliosa (Crescent-chested Warbler) and P. gutturalis (Flame-throated W.); this is also a well supported clade. Under this second scenario, the genus name with precedence is Oreothlypis, as described in proposal 2009-B-04 below. There is really no right or wrong here, just a judgment call on whether genera should be more or less inclusive, and on whether the morphological distinctiveness of these erstwhile Parula are enough to separate them from these erstwhile Vermivora. I lean, but only slightly, toward lumping them together in Oreothlypis.”


I now recommend that SACC follow the N&MA CLC.



Richard C. Banks, August 2010




Comments from Stotz: “YES.  I originally voted on the NA committee for Leiothlypis for the dull ex-Vermivora, with Oreothlypis restricted to the ex-Parula (gutturalis and superciliosa).  I still feel like that is the best treatment.  However, with the North American committee going with Oreothlypis for the whole unit, it seems inappropriate for SACC to go in a different direction for only one of the species, which furthermore is a vagrant to South America.”


Comments from Remsen: “YES, but like Doug, only to go along with NACC – I like the solution proposed by Doug much better.  Phenotypically, the Leiothlypis group makes sense to separate as a separate genus.”


Comments from Robbins: “YES.  It makes sense to follow the North American committee on this for the sake of being consistent.”