Proposal (497) to South American Classification Committee


Change the English name of Amazona vinacea


Effect on the SA Check-list:  This proposal, if adopted, would change the English name of a species on our checklist to a previously established name.  This is one of several short proposals dealing with recent changes in English names of various species of parrots and parakeets.


Background:  Cory (1918) applied the English name of “Vinaceous Parrot” to Amazona vinacea.  Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970, 1982), in his foundational classification of South American birds, modified the English name to Vinaceous-breasted Parrot.  I don’t know if that modification originated with Meyer de Schauensee, but “Vinaceous-breasted” remained the standard for A. vinacea during the modern era of Neotropical ornithology at least until 1990; it is still used by Gill and Wright (2006).  However, virtually every other recent authority (e.g. Collar 1997, Juniper and Parr 1998, Clements 2000, Forshaw 2010) has switched back to “Vinaceous” Parrot/Amazon.  I’m not clear where this reversion to the earlier Cory name originated (possibly with Sibley and Monroe 1990), or why, but it seems to have taken over, and “Vinaceous Parrot” is the name used in the Howard-Moore checklist (Dickinson 2003) that provided our base list for the SACC.


Analysis:  Unlike many of the name-hijackings that have occurred among South American birds through the popular literature, the replacement of “Vinaceous-breasted” with “Vinaceous” does not represent an improvement in the sense of replacing a poor or inappropriate name with one that is more descriptive.  In this case, an established name (Vinaceous-breasted) has been replaced with a much older name that, while shorter and simpler, is less descriptive, and is actually misleading. 


According to several on-line dictionaries, “vinaceous” is an adjective meaning “of or like wine or grapes; wine-colored”.  In descriptions of avian plumage, “vinaceous” is usually applied to feathers that are purplish-red, maroon, or pinkish-purple.  In the case of Amazona vinacea, such a color can be found in a broad band across the breast that extends onto the sides of the neck.  No other part of the plumage is remotely vinaceous.  To me, use of the more streamlined “Vinaceous Parrot” suggests a species that is predominantly vinaceous in color, not one in which the color in question is restricted to the breast.  If no other parrot had vinaceous colored feathering, then perhaps this wouldn’t matter.  However, the Imperial Parrot (A. imperialis) of the same genus is much more extensively vinaceous than is A. vinacea, and the same can be said of South American Pionus fuscus (Dusky Parrot) and Deroptyus accipitrinus (Red-fan Parrot).


Feel free to reference any photos of A. vinacea on-line at WikiAves ( and check the extent and distribution of the vinaceous color.


Forshaw (2010; p. 302), although using the simplified name “Vinaceous Amazon” has this to say in his description (italics mine for emphasis) of A. vinacea:


“Only green-headed Amazon with deep mauve-maroon breast…”


Forshaw (2010; p. 308) describes Imperial Amazon in this way (italics mine for emphasis):


“Unmistakable; largest Amazon with highly distinctive coloration featuring maroon-purple head and underparts…”


In other words, A. vinacea is best recognized by its vinaceous breast contrasting with its green head, back, wings and belly, whereas A. imperialis is best recognized by its extensive maroon-purple head and underparts.  I’m betting that if someone with no prior knowledge of either species was shown an array of Amazona specimens, told what “vinaceous” meant, and asked to guess which parrot was the “Vinaceous Parrot”, that person would pick out imperialis every time.


The argument can be made that “Vinaceous Parrot” is a more established name than “Vinaceous-breasted Parrot”, since it dates back at least to Cory (1918).  However given the miniscule number of ornithologists or birders dealing with Amazona vinacea prior to Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970), I think it is fair to say that “Vinaceous-breasted Parrot” was actually the more familiar name of the two, prior to the recent attempts to resurrect the older name.


Recommendation:  I recommend a “YES” vote for restoring the Meyer de Schauensee English name of “Vinaceous-breasted Parrot”, because it was previously established, is more accurately descriptive, and because the much older, but recently resurrected name of “Vinaceous Parrot” is misleading with regard to the overall appearance of the species involved.


I would also point out that English names of parrots in general have been in turmoil, with each new reference (e.g. Collar 1997, Juniper and Parr 1997, Forshaw 2010) introducing new names for well-known birds, many of which have not been widely adapted.  And this doesn’t even include the schizoid split between the various field guides and checklists on the issue of using “Amazon” versus “Parrot” for Amazona, and “Conure” versus “Parakeet” for Pyrrhura and Aratinga.  The result has been a body-punch to stability, to the extent that very few of the “new” names (some of which are actually throwbacks to Cory 1918) can really claim to be established, even if they have been used in several recent references.


Literature Cited:


CLEMENTS, J. F. 2000. Birds of the World: a checklist. Ibis Publ. Co., Temecula, California.

COLLAR, N. 1997. Family Psittacidae (parrots). Pp. 280-477 in "Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 4. Sandgrouse to cuckoos" (J. del Hoyo et al., eds.). Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

CORY, C. B. 1918. Catalogue of birds of the Americas. Field Mus. Nat. Hist. Publ., Zool. Ser., vol. 13, pt. 2, no. 1.

DICKINSON, E. C. (ed.). 2003. The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the World, Revised and enlarged 3rd Edition. Christopher Helm, London, 1040 pp.

FORSHAW, J. M.  2010.  Parrots of the world.  Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford.

GILL, F. B., AND M. WRIGHT. 2006. Birds of the World. Recommended English names. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton.

JUNIPER, T. AND M. PARR.  1997.  Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1966. The species of birds of South America and their distribution. Livingston Publishing Co., Narberth, Pennsylvania.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1970. A guide to the birds of South America. Livingston Publishing Co., Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1982. A guide to the birds of South America, 2nd edition. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

SIBLEY, C. G., AND B. L. MONROE, JR. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.


Kevin J. Zimmer, September 2011




Comments from Remsen:  “YES.  Meyer de Schauensee’s name was a good one with a long history, and there was no reason to change it, especially to make it misleading.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES.  All of these name-changing proposals by Kevin support the old adage, “if it works, don’t fix it”!”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES - tell you the truth I thought that it was still that! So I am fine restoring to what I thought it was in the first place.”