Proposal (72) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Pheucticus chrysogaster


Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change slightly the English name of a species on our list from a "Hellmayr" name ("Golden-bellied Grosbeak") to a "Ridgely-Tudor" name ("Southern Yellow-Grosbeak")


Background: Hellmayr (1938) used the English name "Golden-bellied Grosbeak" for chrysogaster, which he considered a subspecies of P. chrysopeplus. Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970) also considered them conspecific and used the English name "Yellow Grosbeak" for the broadly defined species (as did Meyer de Schauensee & Phelps 1978, Parker et al. 1982, Hilty & Brown 1986, Fjeldså & Krabbe 1990). The AOU (1983) treated chrysogaster as a species, using Hellmayr's English name, and this was followed by Sibley & Monroe (1990), AOU (1998), and Dickinson (2003).


Ridgely & Tudor (1989) adopted the split of chrysopeplus into three species and coined the name "Southern Yellow-Grosbeak" for South American chrysogaster:


"The previously suggested English name for this species ("Golden-bellied Grosbeak") is poor as it implies a difference in this form which does not exist: its belly is no more "golden" than that of any of its relatives. We prefer to emphasize the distributional pattern of the superspecies by calling the S. Am. member the "Southern Yellow-Grosbeak.'"


This was followed by Ridgely & Greenfield (2001) and Hilty (2003).


Analysis: This is really just a matter of taste, with a dose of historical stability.


Recommendation: I vote NO on this, because (1) I do not like compound names (Stotz and others have expanded on this, and my sense of the birding public is that they do not like them either), (2) I do not think that names need to be diagnostic for a species (i.e., separate it from all other species, which is often impossible without absurd awkwardness; Stiles and others have expounded on this), and because Bob did not indicate what compound name would have to be concocted for centrally located tibialis of Central America, and the symmetrical" candidates are clearly silly (e.g., "Central Yellow-Grosbeak" or "Middle Yellow-Grosbeak").


[As an aside, there was no published rationale for AOU (1983) to alter traditional species limits in this group, and without that change, this problem would not exist. If anyone wants to do a proposal to return to a broad "Yellow Grosbeak," please do so (although I don't know of any evidence that can be brought to bear on the question one way or another).]


Literature Cited:

DICKINSON, E. C. (ed.). 2003. The Howard and Moore complete checklist of the birds of the World, Revised and enlarged 3rd Edition. Christopher Helm, London, 1040 pp.

HELLMAYR, C. E. 1938. Catalogue of birds of the Americas. Field Mus. Nat. Hist. Publ., Zool. Ser., vol. 13., pt. 11.

HILTY, S. L. 2003. Birds of Venezuela. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

HILTY, S. L., AND W. L. BROWN. 1986. A guide to the birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1966. The species of birds of South America and their distribution. Livingston Publishing Co., Narberth, Pennsylvania.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R. 1970. A guide to the birds of South America. Livingston Publishing Co., Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

MEYER DE SCHAUENSEE, R., AND W. H. PHELPS. 1978. A guide to the birds of Venezuela. Princeton.

RIDGELY , R. S., AND P. J. GREENFIELD. 2001. The birds of Ecuador. Vol. II. Field guide. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.

RIDGELY, R. S., AND G. TUDOR. 1989. The birds of South America, vol. 1. Univ. Texas Press, Austin.

SIBLEY, C. G., AND B. L. MONROE, JR. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.


Van Remsen, October 2003




Comments from Jaramillo: "NO -- I truly dislike Southern Yellow-Grosbeak, it is a compound name and really doesn't tell you a heck of a lot about the bird. Golden-bellied, with all its flaws would appear to be the better choice here and preserves historical precedence. "


Comments from Zimmer: "I vote "NO". There is no compelling reason to change (e.g. the name is not inaccurate), the proposed alternative is awkward, and, it would create asymmetry with respect to Black-thighed Grosbeak of Central America."


Comments from Stiles: "NO.. again, the previous name is not inaccurate, just not exclusive. I might add that I find the effete and mannered practice of hyphenating group names to avoid having a three-part name rather absurd. Why is a three-part name, like Southern Yellow Grosbeak, so horrendous? It´s no longer, it is equally good about calling attention to the fact that there are other Yellow Grosbeaks without making the pitch that Yellow-Grosbeak is a taxonomically recognizable group (it is in this case, and does include the "yellowest" grosbeaks, but how about Slaty-Antshrike for a group that does not include the "slatiest" antshrikes?) End of sermon."


Comments from Nores: "NO. Yo considero que el nombre es apropiado a pesar que hay otros congéneres amarillos. Lo mismo cabe que para la pregunta # 66."