Proposal (556) to South American Classification Committee


Adopt a new English name for Thamnophilus atrinucha



Background: SACC Thamnophilidae Note 7 provides the essential background on why Western Slaty-Antshrike no longer is appropriate as the English name for this species. The genetic data of Brumfield & Edwards (2007) found that atrinucha and members of the Slaty-Antshrike complex (punctatus etc.) belong to separate groups within Thamnophilus, a finding buttressed by a comprehensive genetic study of the Thamnophilidae by Bravo (2012).


The simplest solution is to reduce the English name of Thamnophilus atrinucha to Western Antshrike.  The name seems appropriate for the species, because its distribution is the most western of the antshrikes, rivaled only by that of the Barred Antshrike, Thamnophilus doliatus.  However, the name Western Ant-shrike had been proposed by Meyer de Schauensee (1950) as the English name of Dysithamnus o. occidentalis, a name that he later (1964) amended to Western Antvireo and then back to Western Antshrike (1966) as he shifted generic placement of occidentalis back and forth between Dysithamnus and Thamnomanes. Hilty and Brown (1986) maintained occidentalis in Thamnomanes along with the name Western Antshrike, but Whitney (1992) concluded that occidentalis is best placed in Dysithamnus and proposed the English name of Bicolored Antvireo, a recommendation followed by recent authors (Ridgely and Tudor 1994; Zimmer and Isler 2003) and by SACC and substantiated by genetic data (Bravo 2012).


For those who are enamored of English name precedents, I would also note that Hellmayr in Cory and Hellmayr (1924) had Slaty Ant Shrike as the name for atrinucha and Spotted Ant Shrike the name for punctatus.


Recommendation: The name Western Antshrike is so perfect for this species that I would recommend its adoption despite the possible confusion resulting from the prior use of the name for Dysithamnus occidentalis. An alternative that to me has a nice ring to it and also reflects distribution is Transandean Antshrike. That transandeanus is a named subspecies of Taraba major does not seem relevant. Following Hellmayr and making atrinucha the Slaty Antshrike and the punctatus group Spotted-Antshrikes simply makes no sense and would cause unneeded confusion.



Bravo, G.A. 2012. Phenotypic and niche evolution in the antbirds (Aves, Thamnophilidae). Ph.D. dissertation. Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge.

Brumfield, R. T., and S. V. Edwards. 2007. Evolution into and out of the Andes: a Bayesian analysis of historical diversification in Thamnophilus antshrikes. Evolution 61:346–367.

Cory, C. B., and C. E. Hellmayr. 1924. Catalogue of birds of the Americas and the adjacent islands. Pteroptochidae–Conopophagidae–Formicariidae. Field Museum of Natural History Zoological Series, no. 13, part III.

Hilty, S. L., and W. L. Brown. 1986. Birds of Colombia. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Meyer de Schauensee, R. 1950.  The birds of the Republic of Colombia.  Part 3.  Caldasia 5:645–871.

Meyer de Schauensee, R. 1964. The birds of Colombia and adjacent areas of South and Central America. Livingston Publishing Company, Narberth, Pennsylvania, USA.

Meyer de Schauensee, R. 1966. The species of birds of South America and their distribution.  Livingston Publishing Company, Narberth, Pennsylvania, USA.

Ridgely, R. S., and G. Tudor. 1994. The birds of South America, Volume 2: the suboscine passerines. University of Texas Press, Austin, USA.

Whitney, B. M. 1992b. Observations on the systematics, behavior, and vocalizations of “Thamnomanes” occidentalis (Formicariidae). Auk 109:302–308.

Zimmer, K. J., and M. L. Isler. 2003. Family Thamnophilidae (typical antbirds). Pages 448–681 in Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 8: Broadbills to Tapaculos (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliot, and D. A. Christie, Editors). Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.


Mort Isler, October 2012



Comments from Stotz: “NO.  I completely agree that we need to fix this name.  I just think that Western Antshrike has the potential to be very confusing because of its use for Dysithamnus/Thamnomanes occidentalis in the past.  In particular, its use by Hilty and Brown, still very much in use.  I think Transandean would be a good choice.”


Comments from Zimmer: “NO.  In total agreement that we need a new English name for atrinucha, for reasons spelled out well by Mort in the proposal.  I am still on the fence with respect to which name to use.  “Western Antshrike” would be the most appropriate name were it not for the potential confusion with respect to Dysithamnus/Thamnomanes occidentalis.  “Transandean” is probably the next best choice.  Although it is geographically accurate and descriptive, I find it a little awkward, especially when applied to populations in Central America.  However, I’m not convinced that there is a better choice.  So, I would say “Transandean Antshrike” as my first choice, with “Western Antshrike” as an acceptable, but potentially confusing alternative.”


Comments from Paul Clapham: Regarding the English name of Thamnophilus atrinucha -- So far people have only suggested geographic names for the species. And both Western and Transandean would describe the species perfectly well if they were only meant to distinguish it from other Slaty-Antshrikes. But they don't do such a good job of distinguishing it from all other Antshrikes, which is necessary now that it isn't to be considered a Slaty-Antshrike. Besides, "Transandean" is a rather South-America-centric name that looks odd from the point of view of Central America, where much of the species' range is located.


“In fact its range is so large that I don't think there's any reasonable geographic term which describes it well. So I think it's necessary to look elsewhere for an English name.


“We don't have anybody to name it after at this point in time, so that leaves names which describe what it looks or sounds like. Sounds aren't very practical for naming antshrikes. As for what it looks like, it seems to me that translating its Latin name into "Black-naped Antshrike" is not a bad solution.


“(That is also what the Commission Internationale pour les noms francais des oiseaux did when they wanted a French name for the taxon.)”


Comments from Stiles: “I like Paul Clapham`s suggestion. “Transandean” is pretty meaningless for anyone in Central America (where very many northern birders first encounter thamnophilids).  In this sense Western is better, but carries behind it all that chaos of past usage, and probably should be disqualified on that basis - serious birders often like to compare references on species they might see, or have just seen, and use of “Western” would cause needless confusion.  “Black-naped” is accurate if not very distinctive and goes with the Latin name - and truly diagnostic descriptive English names in this group are hard to come by (there are many more gray male antshrikes than there are distinctive features upon which to base English names!).”


Comments from César Sánchez: “I would like to explain a bit further why I found problematic the use of both “Transandean” and “Western”, from a Central American “biased” perspective.  As pointed by others, “Transandean” doesn’t mean much for someone from Central America, where the species is widely distributed; further, not only “northern birders” would find the name problematic, but especially the large and growing number of Central American birders, many of whom typically use English names. With regards to the name "Western", it doesn’t represent accurately its distribution in Central America, because through most of this area, the species occurs on the Caribbean Slope, which comprises the “Eastern” humid lowlands! Hence, I recommend considering the name "Black-naped Antshrike", suggested by Paul.”


Comments from Robbins: “NO to Western; however, I like Paul Clapham’s suggestion of Black-naped Antshrike and fully support using that for Thamnophilus atrinucha.”