Proposal (453x) to South American Classification Committee


Recognize the parulid genus Leiothlypis



NOTE: This is a resubmission of the rejected proposal 453 (to recognize broad Oreothlypis) in such a way that 453x is now Dick Bank’s original proposal to NACC, namely recognize Leiothlypis for the ex-Vermivora that occurs in our area, namely “V.” peregrina (thus restricting Oreothlypis to the Middle American species removed from Vermivora).




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, is 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




These were the comments on the proposal to recognize broad Oreothlypis:


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.” [but see comments below]


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


Comments from Zimmer: “NO.  Much as I would like to go along with the NACC, and realizing that I am swimming against the tide, I have to state my preference for treating Parula superciliosa and P. gutturalis in a separate genus from “Leiothlypis”.  The vocal and morphological cohesiveness of superciliosa and gutturalis fit my concept of a genus.  If you throw them into the stew with the “Leiothlypis” group, the resulting group seems like a broadly defined mush, with little vocal or morphological cohesion.”


Additional comments from Remsen:  After reading Kevin’s and Doug’s comments, I’m changing my vote to NO.  The three NACC people with arguably the most experience with warblers, Doug, Jon Dunn (author of the Peterson guide to North American warblers), and myself were the three NACC people who voted for separating out the Leiothlypis group (vs. 8 in favor).  Even Irby Lovette, warbler phylogeny mastermind, only slightly favored the broadly defined Oreothlypis – see his comments above.  These birds are endemic breeders to the NACC area, so it’s awkward going against the NACC vote; but it won’t be the first or last time.”


Comments from Pérez-Emán: “NO. As Irby Lovette pointed out in the proposal (and in Lovette et al. 2010), a decision of recognizing Oreothlypis was slightly supported favoring a more inclusive genus.  However, as shown in Lovette et al (2010), some molecular datasets do not clearly show monophyly Parula-Leiothlypis and, together with morphological and vocal information commented by Kevin, I would favor keeping both Parula and Leiothlypis.”


Comments from Nores:  “NO.  Although it is evident from the molecular analysis that this group of species do not belong to Vermivora, I am not in agreement with creating a new genus because there is a previous one available: Helminthophila Ridgway 1882, which has been employed as since 1899 (e.g. Hollister 1901, Ridgway 1902, Bishop 1905, Meeker 1905, Eayne 1907, Hellmayr 1920). Moreover, based on the number of nodes I would change the position of crissalis, so the order of taxa would be as follows:


Helminthophila peregrina (Wilson, 1811)

H. celata (Say, 1823)

H. crissalis (Salvin and Godman, 1889)

H. ruficapilla (Wilson, 1811)

H. virginiae (Baird, 1860) and

H. luciae (Cooper, 1861)


Genus Helminthophila Ridgway


Helminthophila Ridgway 1882. New name for Helminthophaga Cabanis, preoccupied. Bull. Nutt. Orn. Cl. 7:53.


Additional comments from Remsen: According to Hellmayr’s “Catalogue”, the type species of Helminthophila is chrysopterus and therefore unavailable because that species remains in true Vermivora, so Manuel’s point is not relevant to a Yes/No decision on this proposal.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “NO.  I must admit that I felt that the prudent thing in order to cause little commotion here would be to go with the NACC, and to recognize the expanded genus Oreothlypis.  However, as two separate genera these stand out as quintessentially good genera, Leiothlypis with the dull species, vocal similarities etc. Similarly, superciliosa and gutturalis in a genus makes great sense.  Although this may cause some friction with the NACC, it also may create a situation for them to reassess if we can point out that this two-genus arrangement actually makes more sense due to the greater information content (meaning) of two versus one expanded genus.”


Comments from Stiles:  YES on the new proposal.  I think that there is more information obtained by splitting Oreothlypis and Leiothlypis.”


Comments from Pacheco:  “YES.  Voto pelo reconhecimento de Leiothlypis Sangster para o arranjo delineado aqui.