Proposal (52) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Trogon comptus


Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list from a "Meyer de Schauensee" name to newer "Sibley-Monroe" or "Ridgely-Tudor" name.


Background: Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970) used the English name "Blue-tailed Trogon" for Trogon comptus. Hilty & Brown (1986) also used this name. Sibley & Monroe (1990) coined the name "White-eyed Trogon" for this species because the name "Blue-tailed Trogon" was in use for Old World Harpactes reinwardtii. For example, MacKinnon & Phillips (1993) used "Blue-tailed Trogon" for this species. Collar (1996) followed Sibley & Monroe (1990) in using "White-eyed"; he also added an exclamation point after the "Blue-tailed Trogon" in his "Other Common Names" section, as if the name were particularly inappropriate; however, in Collar (1996), reinwardtii is split into two species, "Javan Trogon" and "Sumatran Trogon", so the duplication of Blue-tailed is avoided.


Ridgely & Greenfield (2001) coined "Chocó Trogon" for comptus, with the following note:


"T. comptus was formerly called the Blue-tailed Trogon (e.g., Meyer de Schauensee 1966, 1970, Hilty and Brown 1986). Sibley & Monroe (1990) concluded that English name was better applied to a trogon found on Sumatra and Java in Indonesia, Harpactes reinwardtii; we do not know how this decision was reached. Their choice of the name White-eyed Trogon for T. comptus was accurate enough, though it caused, especially in Ecuador, confusion with the equally 'white-eyed' T. mesurus (they were presumably not aware that this would be the case). We prefer to end the confusion and change the name of T. comptus to Chocó Trogon. "


Analysis: With the split of the Old World species and consequent renaming, the use of "Blue-tailed" for T. comptus is no longer a problem. It has a blue tail. It also has a white eye. It is also a Chocó endemic.


Recommendation: I vote "NO" on this proposal because the older name is accurate (albeit not diagnostic) and is in use in "the" field guide for the country, Colombia, that constitutes its primary range.


[Let's say that a YES vote is a vote to change from "Blue-tailed" to either "White-eyed" or "Choco," and if this proposal passes, then we can have a separate vote for White-eyed or Choco.]


Literature Cited:

HILTY, S. L., AND W. L. BROWN. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

MacKINNON, J. & K. PHILLIPS. 1993. A field guide to the birds of Borneo, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Oxford Univ. Press.

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.

RIDGELY , R. S., AND P. J. GREENFIELD. 2001. The birds of Ecuador. Vol. I. Status, distribution, and taxonomy. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

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


Van Remsen, August 2003




Comments from Zimmer: "I vote "no" on changing the English name of T. comptus. If the proposal passes, I would favor "Choco Trogon" over "White-eyed" given that T. mesurus also has white eyes."


Comments from Schulenberg: “My vote: No (i.e., retain the name "Blue-tailed Trogon"). I'm not certain that are out of the woods just because Collar, in Handbook of the Birds of the World, split the Old World Blue-tailed Trogon Harpactes reinwardtii into two species (neither of which retains the name "Blue-tailed"). We tend to be skeptical of these same kind of taxonomic fiats regarding New World species, and we can't guarantee that Collar's treatment will be accepted (although I admit that it is seems likely that it will, if only because that's what ornithologists do, is to follow "the latest thinking").


“Also, while it is hard to find English language names of Indonesian birds, the name "Blue-tailed Trogon" for Harpactes reinwardtii seems to date back at least to 1947 (Delacour, Birds of Malaysia), suggesting that this usage for the Old World species has strict priority over Meyer de Schauensee (1966) (not that strict priority matters as much in issues relating to English language names, but this may have influenced Sibley and Monroe's decision to use "Blue-tailed" for the Indonesian species). 


“I'd still vote to retain "Blue-tailed Trogon" for comptus, however. For one thing, as Van noted, Collar's proposed split of the Old World species may render the issue moot. Blue-tailed has been used by other authors for comptus, even if the later trend is to drift away (in other words, it wasn't a suggestion that was proposed once but never adopted). Finally, I note that MacKinnon and Phillips suggested "Blue-billed Trogon" as an alternate name for the Harpactes. I have no idea where the name "Blue-billed" came from (I had a hard enough time finding an earlier usage of "Blue-tailed" for the Old World species). It may be that MacKinnon and Phillips coined "Blue-billed" themselves, and that they came close to adopting this as a new name for the Harpactes. Therefore, my hope would be that, *if* other authors chose to recognize the Sumatra and Java taxa within in a single species (i.e., not recognizing Collar's split), then they'll adopt "Blue-billed Trogon" for Harpactes reinwardtii (and leave us alone).


Remsen addendum: "Tom has a good point on whether the Collar split will be accepted. In fact, in Dickinson (2003 -- revised Howard-Moore list), the split is not accepted. However, Dickinson's solution to the "Blue-tailed " problem was to tack on a modifier - "Reinwardt's Blue-tailed Trogon" - while leaving comptus as "Blue-tailed Trogon" (!). I argued with Dickinson over this retreat to earlier "sins" of English names (lack of symmetrical modifiers) to no avail. The "Reinwardt's" part does, however, evidently have some history -- the nominate subspecies evidently has been called "Reinwardt's Trogon," which could also provide another option, like Blue-billed.


“In the "for what it's worth" category ... Johnsgard's (2000) "Trogons of the world" book used "Blue-tailed" for the Harpactes and "White-eyed" for comptus. Johnsgard, however, whose work never fails to unimpress me, was evidently unaware of the Handbook of Birds of the World, published four years earlier, or at least does not cite in the bibliography. Another tidbit -- in the "priority" contest, we can push back the name "Blue-tailed" by a whopping two years to 1964 (Meyer de Schauensee 's Colombia book), but with comptus being described in 1948, I suspect beating Delacour 1947 will be rather difficult."


Comments from Robbins: "Before I cast my vote on this, I feel some comments are due with regard to English names. Like everyone else on this committee I'm not enamored with haggling over the use of English names, but given that is one of our charges we must deal with them. My philosophy is that we are in a unique position to improve English names and should not be bound to old names because of "history". Lets face it, until the relatively recent wave of English-speaking people visiting and working in South America (in large part due to the recent, excellent field guides) the vast majority of communication was via scientific names. Even at present, let alone a few years from now, English-speaking people aren't that concerned with past English name usage. From the little that I've been exposed to, people tend to comment more about when an English name is inappropriate than complaining about new names. So, I feel we should not be bound to old, inappropriate names just because one author, who may not have had any experience with a species in life, coined some name based solely on comparing specimens. Now is the time to make improved changes before we publish anything and a name truly does become "established".


"I feel the committee missed an opportunity for improving the English name of Automolus roraimae. Too many of the foliage-gleaners have white throats, and the use of Tepui accurately depicts the species' distribution and that name is succinct. Lastly, I must admit that for me the name Tepui congers up fond memories of yet unspoiled, spectacular scenery with a poorly known avifauna. Indeed, in my opinion, the generic allocation of roraimae is in question. So, we stick with the boring, non-definitive "White-throated" so that "history" can be preserved. ugh!


"With the same rationale, I vote "yes" for changing the English name of Trogon comptus. I strongly prefer Chocó Trogon. Not only is this an appropriate name from a distributional standpoint, but also it frees us from any confusion that might arise from the use of "blue-tailed" for another trogon."


Comments from Stiles: "NO, I see no need to change an established name that is applicable and unambiguous, even if less appropriate than a newer one."


Comments from Jaramillo: "YES.  Accept name change to Choco Trogon. I agree with Mark's comments here. This does avoid a potential confusion with the Asian species; it also is a vast improvement on the name ­ a name that has had problems of confusion in the past. If I understand it correctly the English name Blue-tailed for the Asian species has priority. As such, with many reasons not to use Blue-tailed for Trogon comptus I think it is perfectly appropriate to change the name to the less confusing and more relevant Choco Trogon."


Comments from Silva: "Yes. I agree with Mark's comments."


Comments from Stotz: "YES. I think it is a mistake to maintain Blue-tailed Trogon for this species. There is clearly a problem with the common name for Harpactes reinwardtii. I don't think we can count on the split necessarily holding. Even if it does, we are constantly going to be in the position of needing to distinguish this from the old Harpactes. We are relying on the unknown taxonomic preferences of ornithologists to be named later, to avoid a conflict on this common name. I think we would be much better served going to a name where we won’t potentially have a conflict, even if currently that conflict seems to have been resolved. I would prefer Choco Trogon, but could live with White-eyed Trogon."


Comments from Nores: "NO. Pienso que el nombre Blue-tailed Trogon es apropiado."