Proposal (570) to South American Classification Committee


Adopt a new English name for Thamnophilus atrinucha (2)


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).


In Proposal 556 to the Committee, I recommended the name Western Antshrike. The name was rejected by the Committee principally because the  name had been used previously for Dysithamnus occidentalis. During the course of its consideration, a comment from Paul Clapham suggested that simply translating the scientific name into Black-naped Antshrike would be a suitable alternative. It is an attractive idea given the specific name, but it has the drawback that the black of the crown only extends to the upper center of the nape. The fact that the nape is not extensively black is a possible cause of confusion.


Another option is Black-crowned Antshrike. Looking through Hellmayr’s (1924) extensive list of English names, I did not find Black-crowned Antshrike. The closest is Black-capped Antshrike, which, as Ridgely and Tudor (1994) correctly pointed out, was inappropriately applied to Thamnophilus schistaceus. So, Black-crowned Antshrike provides a second possibility for the committee to consider.


Recommendation: I prefer Black-crowned Antshrike as it provides a more accurate description of the appearance of this species, but Black-naped Antshrike has the benefit of a closer relationship to the scientific name, and either seems acceptable.



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.

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


Mort Isler, December 2012




Comments from Remsen: “YES.  As long as we are inventing a name, let’s go for the more accurate one.  Matching an inaccurate scientific name has no value, in my opinion.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES.  Like Van, I prefer the most descriptive name and given that most or all of the other distinctly “Black-capped” antshrikes are cis-Andean, this name doesn’t create overmuch confusion for this trans-Andean species!”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES, to change the English name of T. atrinucha to “Black-crowned Antshrike”.  As has already been established, use of the hyphenated group name of “Slaty-Antshrike” is no longer appropriate.  Use of “Western” Antshrike would promote confusion with the name previously used for Dysithamnus occidentalis. Neither “Northern Antshrike” or “Trans-Andean Antshrike” or “Central American Antshrike” really works either, since those names could just as easily describe the distributions of other species of antshrikes.  I think that this is one of those instances where a descriptive, morphological-based name is better and more informative than a geographically based name (which I generally prefer).  In this specific case, I agree that “Black-crowned” is more accurate, and therefore, preferable to “Black-naped” as a modifier.”


Comments from Schulenberg: “Either "Black-crowned" or "Black-naped" seem fine to me. Something should be done about all the "xxx Slaty-Antshrikes", but that's another issue.”