Proposal (718) to South American Classification Committee


Correct the scientific name of Chilean Swallow from Tachycineta meyeni to the older name Tachycineta leucopyga



This proposal is based entirely on Mlíkovsky and Frahnert (2009), which should be consulted for a more detailed discussion of the history of the relevant names (Van or I can supply this pdf to anyone who needs it).


In brief:


Meyen 1834 described a white-rumped swallow as Hirundo leucopyga; this name stood for ca. 20 years.


Cabanis, in 1850, suggested that leucopyga was preoccupied by an earlier name from Lichtenstein, Hirundo leucopyga.  Cabanis proposed the name meyeni as a replacement.  As was noted long ago by Hellmayr (1932: 48; 1935: 76), however, Lichtenstein's name leucopyga was used only on museum labels, and never was published by Lichtenstein.  Hence Hirundo leucopyga Lichtenstein is a nomen nudum, and does not conflict with Meyen's use of leucopyga.


Consequently, leucopyga was restored for decades as the name for Chilean Swallow.


Brooke (1974) claimed that Meyen's leucopyga was preoccupied by a different Hirundo leucopyga, in this case Hirundo leucopyga Pallas 1811, a name for a white-rumped Asian population of swift (now Pacific Swift Apus pacificus).  On this basis, most authorities followed Brooke and reverted to using meyeni as the name for Chilean Swallow.


Mlíkovsky and Frahnert (2009), however, argue that Pallas never described a taxon leucopyga; instead, he simply referred to a local white-rumped "variety", writing in Latin and using various formulations to refer to this type of swift, e.g. "varietate ß leucopyga" and "leucopygam ß varietatem". Therefore, there is no name Hirundo leucopyga Pallas 1811, and Meyen's use of leucopyga is not preoccupied.


The name Tachycineta leucopyga (Meyen) has been adopted by Dickinson and Christidis (2014: 482), by Piacentini et al. (2015), and by the IOC, but not by HBW (v 9: 652 and HBW Online).


Recommendation: I recommend that SACC follow Mlíkovsky and Frahnert (2009) and most other authorities, and revert to the name Tachycineta leucopyga for Chilean Swallow.




Brooke, R.K. 1974. Nomenclatural notes on and the type-localities of some taxa in the Apodidae and Hirundinidae (Aves). Durban Museum Novitates 10: 127–137.


Dickinson, E.C., and L. Christidis (editors). 2014. The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the world. Fourth edition. Volume 2. Passerines. Aves Press, Eastbourne, United Kingdom


Hellmayr, C.E. 1932. The birds of Chile. Field Museum of Natural History Zoological Series volume 19.                                                  


Hellmayr, C.E. 1935. Catalogue of birds of the Americas. Part VIII.  Field Museum of Natural History Zoological Series volume 13, part 8.


Mlíkovsky, J., and S. Frahnert. 2009. Nomenclatural notes on Neotropical swallows of the genus Tachycineta Cabanis (Aves: Hirundinidae). Zootaxa 2209: 65-68.


Piacentini, V.Q., A. Aleixo, C.E. Agne, G.N. Maurício, J.F. Pacheco, G.A. Bravo, G.R.R. Brito, L.N. Naka, F. Olmos, S. Posso, L.F. Silveira, G.S. Betini, E. Carrano, I. Franz, A.C. Lees, L.M. Lima, D. Pioli, F. Schunck, F.R. Amaral, G.A. Bencke, M. Cohn-Haft, L.F.A. Figueiredo, F.C. Straube, and E. Cesari. 2015. Annotated checklist of the birds of Brazil by the Brazilian Ornithological Records Committee / Lista comentada das aves do Brasil pelo Comitê Brasileiro de Registros Ornitológicos. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia, 23: 91-298.


Turner, A.K. 2004. Family Hirundinidae (swallows and martins). Pages 602-685 in J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, and D.A. Christie (editors), Handbook of the birds of the world. Volume 9. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.


Tom Schulenberg, April 2016






Comments from Areta: “YES. A very curious history documenting the leap from an informal name to a scientific name without a proper description. The return to the old leucopyga is mandatory.”


Comments from Remsen: YES.  Seems like a straightforward case.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES. Clearly Meyen’s leucopyga is not preoccupied – Pallas’s name is off the wall in a different order and its very publication as a species epithet is dubious at best.  Lichtenstein’s leucopyga stems from unpublished notes written as memory aides (there are several other cases) and the fact that he jotted them on some specimen labels doesn´t constitute description.”


Comments from Claramunt: “YES. The analysis of the issue by Mlíkovsky and Frahnert (2009) is clarifying. Once again (and forever, I hope) Meyen’s name leucopyga is re-established.”


Comments from Pacheco: “YES. From the finding that the two “previous leucopyga” names are not published/available names the conclusion of Mlíkovsky and Frahnert must be endorsed.”