Proposal (683) to South American Classification Committee


Change the English name of Gallinago jamesoni



This proposal is an attempt to restore a prior English name to avoid perpetual confusion between Gallinago jamesoni, which is currently called Andean Snipe, and Gallinago andina, which is currently called Puna Snipe.


Our current classification with English names is as follows:


Gallinago imperialis Imperial Snipe
Gallinago jamesoni Andean Snipe
Gallinago stricklandii Fuegian Snipe
Gallinago nobilis Noble Snipe
Gallinago undulata Giant Snipe
Gallinago delicata Wilson's Snipe (NB)
Gallinago paraguaiae South American Snipe
Gallinago andina Puna Snipe


Everything made sense in the world of English names of South American snipe when Hellmayr & Conover (1948) gave the following English names:


G. p. paraguaiae Paraguayan Snipe

G. p. magellanica Magellanic Snipe

G. p. andina Andean Snipe


Chubbia jamesoni Jameson’s Snipe

Chubbia stricklandii Strickland’s Snipe


Meyer de Schauensee (1966), however, treated magellanica and paraguaiae as subspecies of broadly defined G. gallinago (Common Snipe), whereas G. p. andina was treated as a separate species G. andina, which he called Puna snipe.  No reasons were given, but he cited an Olrog 1962 paper (Neotropica 8, no. 27 – anyone have access? Manuel or Nacho?) for “remarks on snipes”.  Meyer de Schauensee (1966) also treated jamesoni as a subspecies of G. stricklandii, again without providing any rationale, and coined the name Cordilleran Snipe for the composite species.  He referred to jamesoni in a footnote as “Andean Snipe”, and I wonder if this was not a lapsus, because that name had been previously associated in the work he cited specifically (Hellmayr & Conover 1948) with andina, not jamesoni.  On the other hand, being under the influence of Eisenmann and his legendary jihad against patronyms, perhaps this was part of the purge; furthermore, Meyer de Schauensee consciously changed the name of andina from Andean as in Hellmayr and Conover to Puna.  Nevertheless, Meyer de Schauensee’s English names were carefully chosen, given the era, and I cannot imagine that someone as astute as Meyer de Schauensee would have used the English translation of one species’ name as the English name for another species in the same genus    therefore, I lean towards the lapsus hypothesis.  However, Meyer de Schauensee (1970) used the same English names, so if it was a lapsus, he didn’t notice or did not want to revert.


Sibley & Monroe (1990) reverted to Hellmayr and Conover’s taxonomy in treating jamesoni as a separate species.  I suspect this was something that Burt Monroe did – he was one of the early rebels against the Lumperama Era.  For the English name, Sibley & Monroe followed Meyer de Schauensee in using Andean Snipe, almost certainly taking this directly from the footnote in Meyer de Schauensee (1966) in which jamesoni was suddenly christened “Andean”.  Sibley & Monroe maintained species rank for andina and also called it Puna Snipe.  They also restored paraguaiae to species rank (but included magellanica as a subspecies of it) and called it South American Snipe.  As far as I can tell, all or almost all subsequent classifications have followed this.


Confused?  (Also keep in mind that all of the taxonomic changes were done without explicit rationale, as far as I can tell, much less any data, unless there is something in Olrog 1962).


Regardless, what we currently have is a messy situation in which the species with the English name Andean Snipe (G. jamesoni) is not the one with the scientific name andina (G. andina = Puna Snipe).  Because of this, I for one cannot keep the English names straight – if any snipe in the Andes should be called Andean Snipe it seems that it should be G. andina, as in Hellmayr & Conover (1948).


I recognize that G. jamesoni actually has a broader distribution in the Andes (Venezuela and Colombia to Bolivia) than does G. andina, which indeed is largely a Puna bird, and in that sense better deserves the name “Andean”.  Puna Snipe is also a better name for G. andina – it has a distribution that basically coincides with the puna zone.  Note that I am not proposing using Andean for andina – I think Andean is best avoided completely as a name because of the confusion.  This proposal is strictly for restoration of the historical name Jameson’s for jamesoni.


Reasons to vote NO would include 60 years of jamesoni being called Andean Snipe without evidently anyone but me having any problems with it.  Reasons to vote YES would be would be to repair the damage and restore the former English name.  I am not aware of any group of birds in which the English name for one is the exact translation of the Latinized scientific name for another – this is certainly a highly unusual situation, perhaps unprecedented, in ornithology, at least in the W. Hemisphere and at least for Latinized names, e.g. bolivianus and Bolivian (and thus I’m not sure how the planet continues to rotate on its axis).  Because of that, I predict that this was a lapsus on Meyer de Schauensee’s part, and so that 60-year tradition may indeed have been a “tradition” perpetuated by a booboo.


Van Remsen, October 2015


P.S.  From what little I can find out (Jobling 1991; Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names), Jameson, i.e. James Sligo Jameson (1856-1888), was a naturalist who explored Africa, Borneo, and the Rocky Mtns, but evidently not South America; he apparently was a prolific illustrator of birds and butterflies.  He died of malaria when left behind in the Congo by Henry Morton Stanley on his infamous search for Dr. Livingston.  He evidently went mad on that trip and is possibly the model for the evil Kurtz in Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”  So, why Jardine and Bonaparte named a snipe from the Andes for him has nothing to do with any contributions to South American ornithology or to snipe as far as I can tell.  Jameson was indeed a prominent member of the Jameson family of Irish whiskey fame, so perhaps Jardine and Bonaparte were devoted customers.


P.S.S.  Jobling (2010) revised the above to indicate that Sligo was the namesake for Dyaphorophyia jamesoni and Parmoptila jamesoni, and that Gallinago jamesoni was named for “Prof. William Jameson (1796-1873) Scottish academician, botanist, zoologist and collector in Quito, Ecuador 1826-1873” …. which makes much more sense.




Comments from Stiles: “YES, to restore celestial rotation. Note that there is at least one more taxon named for the correct Jameson, Heliodoxa jacula jamesoni.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES – But I must say that this one has never really bothered me. The fact that magellanica and paraguaiae are considered one species bothers me more, but work is ongoing on changing that issue.  Whisky Snipe would have been good, although now we know that would be incorrect.  There is already a patronym in this group, more if you look outside of our region, so Jameson’s certainly is fine and not an outlier as an English name within the Snipes.  I do like the odd set of names: Noble, Giant, and Imperial all giving a sense of both size, and gravitas. But then creating a Royal Snipe, or Regal Snipe may not pass muster, but it sure would be a great addition to this set of names.”


Comments from Stotz: “YES.  I also get confused by the fact that Andean Snipe is not Gallinago andina.  Given that Andean Snipe was used for andina by Hellmayr and Conover, and that jamesoni was lost in Cordilleran Snipe for a good portion of the time that Puna Snipe has been used for andina, I think going back to Jameson’s will reduce potential confusion going forward.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES, to correct a confusing and unfortunate situation.  The patronym doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and is much more memorable, given the circumstances, than “Andean”.