Recognize a new scientific name for the Blue-winged Warbler



Proposal (454) to South American Classification Committee



NOTE: The following proposal was submitted to and passed NACC, and is here submitted with the authors’ permission.



Olson and Reveal (2009) have shown that the Linnaean name Certhia pinus is a composite name, based on illustrations of birds of two different warbler species, the Pine Warbler, now known as Dendroica pinus, illustrated by Catesby, and the Blue-winged Warbler, now Vermivora pinus, illustrated by Edwards.


Wilson was aware of the problem and essentially restricted the name to what we now call the Pine Warbler.  He, and later Bonaparte, in effect lectotypified Certhia pinus as Catesby’s plate.  Wilson described as new the Blue-winged Warbler, as Sylvia solitaria.  Wilson used the name pinus for the Pine Warbler.


Baird (1858), however, used pinus of Linnaeus for the Blue-winged Warbler, and gave Wilson credit for the name Sylvia (now Dendroica) pinus, incorrectly regarding Wilson’s use of that name as a new name.  Stejneger (1885) realized the latter was wrong and used the name Sylvia vigorsii for the Pine Warbler.  Stone (1921) argued again that Wilson was giving a name to Catesby’s illustration as pinus, and that name, attributed to Wilson, has been used by AOU since 1931.  But Wilson was merely mentioning the name as used by Latham.  Even if he intended it as new it would have been a junior homonym, and thus unavailable.


Wilson’s and Bonaparte’s actions clearly made Linnaeus’s name Certhia pinus the name for the Pine Warbler, and thus Wilson’s Sylvia solitaria is the name for the Blue-winged Warbler.  Unfortunately, that name is preoccupied by Sylvia solitaria Lewin, 1808, and no other name is available.  Olson and Reveal proposed the name Vermivora cyanoptera.


I propose that we accept this new name and the other consequences of this study.  The Blue-winged Warbler and its citation must be listed as:


Vermivora cyanoptera Olson and Reveal.  Blue-winged Warbler




Olson, S. L., and J. L. Reveal.  2009.  Nomenclatural history and a new name for the Blue-winged Warbler (Aves: Parulidae).  Wilson Journal of Ornithology 121:618-620.


Richard C. Banks, August 2010




Comments from Zimmer: “YES.  This seems to be a reasonable way out of this convoluted mess.”


Comments from Stiles:  YES – at least tentatively. My only question is, is Levin’s solitaria currently a member of Sylvia (or at least, anything but Vermivora?)  If so, would this not make Wilson’s name solitaria available for the Blue-winged Warbler?”


Comments from Nores:  NO. When Wilson (1810) described Sylvia solitaria, the name was invalid because Silvia solitaria had been used previously by Lewin in 1808 (at present Origma solitaria). However, as the species passed to genus Vermivora, there are no species with the name Vermivora solitaria. For this reason, the name solitaria became valid. Although the name has not been used since 1899, it seems preferable to resurrect an old name than to create a new one.”


Comments from Pacheco:  YES.  I consider the proposal consistent with the nomenclatural situation. It is irrelevant to know which genus is currently the name involved in this type of homonymy.  In a case of primary homonymy, Sylvia solitaria Wilson, 1810 (pre-occupied by Sylvia solitaria Lewin, 1808) - being the youngest - is considered permanently invalid in accordance with the Code.  Article 57.2 of the ICZN is clear about this: Primary homonyms. Identical species-group names established for different nominal taxa when originally combined with the same generic name are primary homonyms and the junior name is permanently invalid.”


Comments from Pérez:  YES. This is a particularly confusing nomenclatural history, but Fernando’s comments added an important clarifying note to validate the use of Vermivora cyanoptera.”