Proposal (614) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Scytalopus rodriguezi from "Upper Magdalena Tapaculo" to "Magdalena Tapaculo"




Donegan et al. (2013) have now described the much-observed tapaculo related to S. rodriguezi from the Yariguíes Mountains as S. r. yariguiorum.  Two isolated populations of S. rodriguezi were more or less contemporaneously discovered during 2003.  Description of the Yariguíes form was delayed largely due to deliberations as to its appropriate rank as a separate species or as a subspecies of S. rodriguezi (which was found independently and described by Krabbe et al. 2005) and the need, addressed by Donegan & Avendaño (2008), to study the types and distributions of other named northern Colombian tapaculos in greater detail than had been possible for Krabbe & Schulenberg (1997, 2003).


"Upper Magdalena Tapaculo" now becomes an unnecessarily restricted name for S. rodriguezi.  With S. rodriguezi the only recognised taxon on the AOU-SACC list, it should be treated as a superspecies comprising two populations.  The following vernacular nomenclature is recommended in our paper:


Combined group: S. rodriguezi Magdalena Tapaculo

When split: S. [r.] rodriguezi Upper Magdalena Tapaculo

When split: S. [r.] yariguiorum Yariguies Tapaculo.


The nominate form remains known only from a small area at the head of the Magdalena valley in Huila, whilst yariguiorum is known only from a narrow elevational and geographical range within the Yariguíes mountains, on the east side of the mid-Magdalena valley (known in Colombia as the "Magdalena medio"), c.580 km distant.  The distribution gap appears to be largely genuine. Although it is not entirely clear where the "Upper Magdalena" becomes the "Mid Magdalena" or "Magdalena medio" as a matter of biogeography or popular nomenclature, the range of yariguiorum is certainly in mountains bordering the "Magdalena medio" and not the "Upper Magdalena".  Having simple "Magdalena" for the name of the combined group is appropriate and maintains continuity with the existing name for S. rodriguezi.  Distributions are illustrated in Figure 1, taken from our paper.  A low-tech attempt at showing the vernacular nomenclature for the region, together with distributions of the two taxa, is set out in Figure 2.


Fig 6 S rodriguezi map final 



Figure 1. Distribution map from Donegan et al. (2013).



Fig 6 S rodriguezi map final with notes on the English names


Figure 2: Distributions of the two taxa, based on Figure 1, showing rough vernacular nomenclature for the regions where species occur.


The vocal, biometric and plumage differentiation involved make these two tapaculos an exemplar borderline case as regards species or subspecies rank, as is discussed in our description.  If there is any support for species rank for yariguiorum in committee member comments, we could produce a separate proposal, but this one on vernacular names can be considered independently.




Donegan, T. M. & Avendaño, J. E. 2008. Notes on tapaculos (Passeriformes: Rhinocryptidae) of the Eastern Andes of Colombia and Venezuelan Andes, with a new subspecies of Scytalopus griseicollis from Colombia. Orn. Colombiana 6: 24–65.

Donegan, T. M. & Avendaño, J. E. & Lambert, F. 2013. A new tapaculo related to Scytalopus rodriguezi from Serranía de los Yariguíes, Colombia. Bull BOC 133(4): 4-19.  PDF circulated to SACC committee members by email.

Krabbe, N. & Schulenberg, T. S. 1997. Species limits and natural history of Scytalopus tapaculos (Rhinocryptidae), with descriptions of the Ecuadorian taxa, including three new species. Pp. 47–88 in Remsen, J. V. (ed.) Studies in Neotropical ornithology honoring Ted Parker. Orn. Monogr. 48.

Krabbe, N. & Schulenberg T. S. 2003. Family Rhinocryptidae (tapaculos). Pp. 748–787 in del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Christie, D. A. (eds.) Handbook of the birds of the world, vol. 8. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.


Thomas Donegan & Jorge Avendaño, December 2013





Comments from Stiles: “YES to use of Magdalena Tapaculo for the name of rodriguezi, with two subspecies. Further work might favor separating these two at the species level, but genetic data will be needed (the specimens are available here), and reciprocal playback experiments would also be good to have.”


Comments from Cadena: “I normally do not vote on English names, but thought I would note that, when preparing the description of S. rodriguezi, we considered using the English name Magdalena Tapaculo. We chose not to use this name because when people talk about Magdalena they usually refer to the low-lying, hot, river Valley, where this montane species does not occur. Upper Magdalena Tapaculo thus seemed to work better. Now, with the species having been found in the middle Magdalena I guess a name change is required, and Magdalena would be OK despite this geographical detail especially considering tapaculos like this one have no distinguishing phenotypic features that could be used as a basis to coin an alternative name.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES, for reasons spelled out in the proposal.”