Proposal (792.2) to South American Classification Committee
Establish English names for Thamnistes species (3)
The two previous attempts to establish English names have produced stalemates that seem intractable within our informal English names subcommittee, and from comments below, it’s pretty clear that a 2/3 majority is not achievable. Therefore, to avoid further delay in implementing this split, I am going to try something new, something that is guaranteed to produce a majority vote for one of the three options (if everyone asked to vote does so). I am expanding the voting considerably to include a number of individuals who have shown an interest in SACC English names through their contributions, either proposals or comments, on previous English name proposals, and their votes will be tallied as the come in for the three leading options.
Option 1: compound names:
Thamnistes anabatinus Northern Russet-Antshrike
Thamnistes rufescens Southern Russet Antshrike
Option 2: retaining the traditional parental name for one of the daughters and coining a new one for one of the daughters:
Thamnistes anabatinus Russet Antshrike
Thamnistes rufescens Rufescent Antshrike
Option 3: new names for both daughters by resurrecting an old one and coining a new one:
Thamnistes anabatinus Tawny Antshrike
Thamnistes rufescens Rufescent Antshrike
The pros and cons of each option are tediously explicated in the two previous iterations – see below. I see no point in restating these, but if you have something new to add, please do.
Note that Thamnistes anabatinus is really a NACC bird, so in the end, I think they should have the say over that name.
Van Remsen, July 2020
Note from Remsen (Nov. 2020): the majority of respondents favored Option 2, so I am going to consider Option 2 as the one SACC will adopt.
Hilty: Option 2
Jaramillo: Option 2
Remsen: Option 3
Schulenberg: Option 2
Stiles: Option 3
Whitney: Option 2
Zimmer: Option 3
Don Roberson: Option 1 (Despite my generalized dislike for compound names, I vote for Option One, with hyphens. I generally prefer English names that are short and memorable. The “Russet Antshrike” part is already memorable, but learning two new names of similar colors will surely be confusing. I’m also swayed by the potential split, and rather like Napo Russet-Antshrike as a potential third name, as suggested by someone below.)
Rich Hoyer: Option 3 (Both getting new names and no clunky hyphenated group names. The knowledge that there was once a Russet Antshrike will be quaint trivia a few decades from now.”)
Dan Lane: Option 3 (My first choice of English names for the two Thamnistes following the split would be:
T. anabatinus: Russet Antshrike
T. rufescens: Rufescent Antshrike
In agreement with the assessments of others, the strongly unbalanced distributional areas and the fact that records of T. anabatinus far outweigh those of T. rufescens combine to make it clear that retaining the name "Russet" for the anabatinus group is the best course of action for now, with the possibility that an additional split may require another change in the future. In any event, I am not a fan of "Northern and Southern Russet-Antshrikes" because I find such names uninteresting, cumbersome, and most importantly, remove the species from being found under "Antshrike" in the indices of reference works, which is no small consideration!)
Craig Caldwell: Option 2 (“Gill and Donsker (IOC) and Clements/eBird have used them since they recognized the split, and I'm all for the benefits to my fellow amateurs of having all the major taxonomic schemes use the same names.”)
Gary Rosenberg: Option 1 (“1) I agree with others who have argued that there is just too much of an established history for the common name “Russet” - even if it is not the best or most accurate in matching colors. 2) I am not the biggest fan either of making common names long, hyphenated names, but using “Northern” and “Southern” will be self-explanatory and easy for birders to incorporate into their thinking when it comes to common names - especially in this case where there are natural northern and southern populations . Creating two new names will be unnecessarily confusing. I can attest that birders on tours HATE when names are changed that make things more confusing”.)
Peter Kaestner: Option 2 (“Keeps the original name for the species that is overwhelmingly observed (thanks Josh) and the newly-coined name reflects the Latin moniker. I agree with Alvaro that we don’t need to blindly follow the rule of not maintaining the original name for a daughter species.”)
Steve Howell: Option 2 (“My choices would be as follows, or the other way around (!) as there is no clear “winner” here:
1. Russet and Rufescent (if it looks like only 2 splits will ever happen), and as done I think by IOC following the recommendations in the Isler & Whitney paper. (But I really like Tawny, it’s just a matter of “if not broken, don’t fix it” an adage of which Eisenmann was utterly unfamiliar…) In cases with 2 allopatric non-migratory species, I think keeping one name is OK (a la Red-eyed Vireos).
Thus, option 1a is also fine. Tawny and Rufescent. BUT… if it looks like more splits, Western, Eastern, Peruvian, or whatever could happen, then yes to:
2. Northern Russet Antshrike, Southern Russet Antshrike; remembering Russet Antshrike is easier than new names (yes, new birders will never know the old names, but if they are called “Northern” or whatever it will teach people there are related species, since I doubt the present generation of eTards even looks at something known as a genus”).
David Donsker: Option 2 (“For the reasons already stated by those who also favor this option”.)
Mort Isler: Option 2 (“for reasons that others have stated, but I also agree with the reasoning for option 3, and it was a tough choice. Option 1 is undesirable, particularly given evidence that additional species splits may result from more information on the cis-Andean populations”)
Mark Pearman: Option 2 (“… on the grounds of maintaining the name Russet Antshrike for the well-known and endearing anabatinus, while I think Rufescent is a reasonable name for rufescens reflecting the specific name and plumage.”)
Marshall Iliff: Option 2: (I don't feel incredibly strongly about these, but I would also vote for option 2:
Thamnistes anabatinus Russet Antshrike
Thamnistes rufescens Rufescent Antshrike
For option 1, while I agree with what Gary writes, I think Northern Russet Antshrike and Southern Russet Antshrike get pretty unwieldy.
In many cases I would endorsed option 3, since you know I am a strong proponent of new names for daughter species when a split occurs. I feel like I should lay out my rationale and if my reasoning below makes sense and if SACC continues to address English names, it may be worth considering if this might be an expanded exception.
To me it boils down to the probability that retention of a daughter name will generate confusion and (in my world at eBird) resultant data entry error.
Giving separate names for daughter taxa causes a bit of early confusion and then birders, fields guides etc. adapt. Canyon and California Towhees were far better than arbitrarily retaining Brown Towhee for one of the parents. This is especially important when multiple taxa are split out, so retiring the names Paltry Tyrannulet and Blue-crowned Motmot and reserving them for the entire species complex is ideal. It has been great to see this philosophy increasingly engrained in comments by SACC and NACC. It has been good also to see this formally enshrined for NACC and (maybe?) SACC: https://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCprop857.htm
However, we all recognize that this need not be taken to a ridiculous extreme. When the Andaman population of Barn Owl is split out as Andaman Masked-Owl Tyto deroepstorffi https://ebird.org/species/barowl5, we need not require that Barn Owl change its name. Nor did recognition of Hispaniolan Crossbill really mean that White-winged Crossbill needed a name change.
The current SACC proposal gets at this -- https://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCprop857.htm and states:
1.1.a. Relative range size. In many cases, relative range size is an excellent proxy for the differential effect of a name change. When one or more new daughter species are essentially peripheral isolates or have similarly small ranges compared to the other daughter species, then the parental name is often retained for the widespread, familiar daughter species to maintain stability. For example, the English name Red-winged Blackbird was retained for the widespread species Agelaius phoeniceus when the Cuban subspecies A. phoeniceus assimilis was elevated to species rank, and a novel English name (Red-shouldered Blackbird) was adopted only for the daughter species A. assimilis.
1.1.b. Differential usage. In some cases, a name is much more associated with one daughter species regardless of relative range size. For example, the name Clapper Rail has been consistently associated with birds of the eastern US and Caribbean for over a century, whereas populations in South America and in the western US and Mexico were known by various other names before being grouped under the name Clapper Rail. In this case, despite the extensive range of the South American daughter species (Rallus longirostris), the name Clapper Rail was retained for eastern North American daughter species (R. crepitans) when the species was split into three, with Mangrove Rail applied to the daughter in South America and Ridgway's Rail to that in the southwestern US and adjacent Mexico (R. obsoletus).
My reason for being willing to retain Russet Antshrike for one daughter here is that in terms of English usage, the distribution is highly asymmetrical -- so it is sort of a hybrid of 1.1a and 1.1b above. I would argue that there is much more engrained English usage in the multiple English language field guides (Mexico, Central America, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador) within the range of Thamnistes anabatinus than for Thamnistes rufescens (Peru, Bolivia). I also would say that the English speakers who might use English names in Peru and Bolivia--primarily tour participants and savvy independent travelers--are more well-versed in how taxonomy and nomenclature are shuffling around and also more likely to use the scientific name (which, of course, is even worse, since retention of a parental name is required!). So in the end, I see very little problem in retaining Russet for the northern birds in a zone where English names are more widely used and in more contexts (at least measured by number of field guides). To me this is akin to the split of Gray Hawk and Gray-lined Hawk, except that the recognition of the southern taxon here is one with an even more restricted southern range.
Within eBird, we see lots of data quality errors when people are persistently confused by the English names. If the southern T. rufescens were to get the name Russet Antshrike, we'd end up with a data quality disaster as dozens/hundreds of people would search for Russet Antshrike in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama etc. and enter it, not knowing that it referred to a species found only in Peru and Bolivia. So for me, if observers are unaware of the split but correctly identify it in their field guide, they are vastly more highly likely to land on the right name if we retain Russet. We can actually measure this: eBird has 7395 records of Russet https://ebird.org/species/rusant1 compared to only 116 of Rufescent https://ebird.org/species/rufant12. If we removed Spanish speakers or highly advanced users, such as members of SACC, I expect this ratio would be even more biased. In my mind, the name change for daughter taxa is most important when the correct English name will result in lots of errors, which would have been the case if Hispaniola Crossbill had instead used White-winged Crossbill. To illustrate continuing real-world problems, it was a mistake (in my view) to retain Common Snipe for one of the two taxa in the New World-Old World split of Gallinago gallinago and also to retain Audubon's Shearwater for the tiny Caribbean isolate that was left after Persian, Barolo, Boyd's, Galapagos, Tropical, and Bannerman's all got split out and given new English names.
The original proposal https://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCprop792.htm also points out that T. anabatinus sensu stricto has a larger distribution, roughly twice the latitudinal distribution, and contains 6 of the 7 named taxa.
So I vote option 2:
Thamnistes anabatinus Russet Antshrike
Thamnistes rufescens Rufescent Antshrike
Proposal (792.1) to South American Classification Committee
Establish English names for Thamnistes species (2)
To begin with, the genus Thamnistes has long been treated as monospecific, and the name Russet Antshrike has been in continuous universal use for ca. 70 years. SACC’s policy of retaining the original name only for the broadly circumscribed species and coining or resurrecting different names for the newly spit daughter species sometimes causes problems, as in this case: the name Russet Antshrike is just too well established to sweep under the rug. So, the alternative here would be to use it as a genus-level name for Thamnistes (with or without a hyphen) and add appropriate modifiers to its newly-split progeny. Hence, two alternatives are as follows:
1. Use geography; the distribution of the taxa is pretty nearly linear, which facilitates this. The northernmost populations (from Mexico to NW Colombia) could be called Northern Russet-Antshrike. Newly split rufescens could be called either Southern or Peruvian Russet-Antshrike (virtually its entire range falls within Peru). So, the options I propose are:
a. Northern and Peruvian Russet-Antshrikes, or
b. Northern and Southern Russet-Antshrikes
These alternatives leave open the possibility for adding similar names for aequatorialis and gularis should these also be split. For the former, I’d suggest Ecuadorian – although it also occurs widely in Colombia, this ties in with the Latin name, possibly an advantage; an alternative could be Napo Russet-Antshrike. For gularis, Perijá Russet-Antshrike would fit its apparently restricted distribution.
2. Use color names. Thus, the northern group would become Tawny Russet-Antshrike, rufescens would become Rufescent Russet-Antshrike. This is clear enough, although the juxtaposition of two different color names in the same English names could well be a bit confusing. However, the situation becomes worse if aequatorialis or gularis also were to be split. Here, the much-abhorred colorimetric hair-splitting would be necessary in coining the required new names.
I therefore recommend alternative 1, and lean towards 1a with an eye to future contingencies.
Gary Stiles, October 2018
Comments from Remsen: “NO on all. I don’t like the compound names, and there are ways to avoid them, as in 790.0. Also, retention of the parental name “Russet” for a daughter species is not justified, in my opinion. The northern taxon may be more familiar to many, but rufescens has a large range, and thus we do not have, in my opinion, sufficient asymmetry to justify retaining parental Russet in a daughter name.”
Comments from Schulenberg: “NO. I don't like long compound names. And I don't see anything wrong with Rufescent Antshrike for rufescens, and with retaining Russet Antshrike for anabatinus sensu stricto. The disparity in the geographic ranges of the two is great enough that I'm not worried about confusion after rufescens is carved out - especially since, as noted previously, the form that is seen most often anyway is the one that would retain the familiar name.”
Comments from Jaramillo: “NO. The proposal notes: ‘the name Russet Antshrike is just too well established to sweep under the rug.’ I agree, so let’s keep Russet Antshrike for anabatinus, and create Rufescent Antshrike for rufescens. Although it is great or a goal to avoid retaining a group name for one of the daughter species, I don’t think it should be a rule. Sure, there is some certain amount of confusion it causes. But on the other hand, we seem to deal with it without much problem when dealing with scientific names. I mean Thamnistes anabatinus means something different before the split as opposed to after the split. Some of the confusion will be temporary, but the benefit of keeping a well-established name such as Russet Antshrike has great value. Avoiding a compound name also has great value.”
Proposal (792.0) to South American Classification Committee
Establish English names for Thamnistes species (1)
With passage of SACC proposal 758, we now recognize two species of Thamnistes, based on Isler and Whitney (2017). We haven’t implemented the proposal because we need to establish English names for the two newly delimited species.
Isler and Whitney (2017) recommended retaining long-standing Russet Antshrike for T. anabatinus and Rufescent Antshrike for T. rufescens. The problem with that is that our guidelines and those of NACC recommend new names for both daughter species because retaining the parental name for one the daughters creates obvious confusion as to what the shared daughter-parental name refers to (in this case Russet Antshrike). This is only a guideline, however, not a rule because in many such cases, one or more of the daughters are peripheral isolates for which changing an established name for the remainder of the widely occurring species creates unnecessary instability. An extreme example within the SACC area would be Vireo gracilirostris, formerly considered a subspecies of Red-eyed Vireo. Rather than changing names to something like “Common Red-eyed Vireo” and “Noronha Red-eyed Vireo”, the sensible pre-SACC decision was to retain traditional Red-eyed for the widespread daughter and call gracilirostris “Noronha Vireo”. But what if the distributions are not that asymmetric, as in the two Thamnistes?
Below is the distribution map from Isler and Whitney (2017):
As can be seen, T. anabatinus sensu stricto has a larger distribution, roughly twice the latitudinal distribution, and contains 6 of the 7 named taxa. So, the distributions are asymmetric but not highly so. However, taxonomic asymmetry is such that retaining Russet for T. anabatinus would mean that the English names would remain stable for 6 of 7 taxa. However, whether cis-Andean aequatorialis belongs with anabatinus or merits species rank on its own is nuclear; from Isler and Whitney:
“The status of aequatorialis is less clear. Maintenance as a subspecies is recommended on the grounds that although elevating aequatorialis to species status might result from the acquisition and analysis of additional data, later elevation is preferable to elevating it now and then finding that additional data demands reducing it back to subspecies status.”
Also, gularis was not sampled; presumably it is more closely related to adjacent aequatorialis than anything else. Thus, if additional data show that aequatorialis (plus gularis?) merit species rank, then the asymmetry among the species disappears.
If we decide to go with new names for both daughters, one option is to generate compound names, e.g. Something Russet-Antshrike and Rufescent Russet-Antshrike. Compound names are generally unpopular, however.
A third possibility would be to provide a new name for T. anabatinus sensu stricto. In my comments in the original proposal, I suggested “Tawny Antshrike” as a possibility. This is actually the English name used by Ridgway (1911) for nominate anabatinus (Mexico through Nicaragua) and thus was “the” name used in English literature from Mexico and n. Central America from Ridgway’s time through at least 1955, when Eisenmann selected “Russet Antshrike” (used by Ridgway for T. a. saturatus) as the name for the species as a whole. I’m not sure why he did this except that saturatus occurs in w. Panama, his country of interest. In contrast, “Tawny” applied to the nominate subspecies, to the larger part of the composite species range, and to a greater proportion of the plumage area. To me, just looking at the specimens photos (proposal 758) “tawny” seems at least as appropriate if not better than “russet” for the species. Further, “Tawny” is especially appropriate as a foil to “Rufescent”, which is distinctly “redder” overall.
Here is a photo of all our specimens, “Tawny” on left (except for aequatorialis), “Rufescent” on right:
Therefore, I propose “Tawny Antshrike” for T. anabatinus. It avoids the problem of having a daughter species carry the parental name, avoids a compound name, is arguably more appropriate than Russet, and as a bonus revives a good name that was in use for 40 years and should have been the name chosen for the species if Eisenmann had not had a Panama bias. A YES vote would be for Tawny and Rufescent as the names for the two daughter species. A NO would be for something else, presumably Russet and Rufescent, the choice of many of you in the informal discussions in proposal 758.
Be sure to see others’ comments on English names in proposal 758, especially Bret’s (in defense of Russet) and Gary’s.
EISENMANN, E. 1955. The species of Middle American birds. Transactions Linnean Society New York 7: 1–128.
ISLER, M. L., and B. M. WHITNEY. 2017. Species limits in the genus Thamnistes (Aves: Passeriformes: Thamnophilidae): an evaluation based on vocalizations. Zootaxa 4291 (1): 192–200.
RIDGWAY, R. 1911. The birds of North and Middle America. Bulletin U.S. National Museum, no. 50, pt. 5.
Van Remsen, June 2018
Comments from Stiles: “NO. For this proposal, I suspect that "Tawny Antshrike" may upset too many apple carts. Russet Antshrike has been in continuous use since the 1950s in everything from technical literature to bird guides to birders' notes from Mexico to Argentina. Although I rather like Tawny, I think that Russet just has too much momentum to change. Given that the spit of rufescens from anabatinus will be implemented by relatively few countries, I'd prefer to leave the rest as Russet Antshrikes.”
Comments from Steve Hilty:
“Herewith some comments on the naming process, with Thamnistes as an example. What follows may strike some as lacking innovation, but names should be easy to recall. Coining a unique new name for every new taxon split and obsessively avoiding compound names does not produce a set of names that are easy to recall and it is counterproductive. The following sets out my argument.
“Yes, I agree (with Bret in SACC 758). “Why in the world would you want to change a long established name like Russet Antshrike?” I also concur (with Gary) that it is unnecessary to adhere to restrictive rules regarding changing English names each time a taxonomic change occurs, especially when there are so many parent-daughter splits that need attention. The SACC process of choosing English names is somewhat cumbersome and often not particularly helpful to the few of us involved with SACC who actually use English names on a regular basis.
“Here is one of the problems. I personally cannot retain fifteen or twenty thousand (or more) unique and often new English names in my head—and there will be more on the way every week for the foreseeable future and beyond. I can, however, retain some small fraction of that number and use them effectively with birding clients. In this regard it helps considerably if, after a split or multiple splits occur, the “mother” name is retained and simply modified with a relatively predictable modifier such as Eastern, Western, Northern and so forth. This might or might not involve a hyphen.
“So, is anybody actually doing this? Beyond the world of SACC, it may be instructive to see what others on the planet are doing. All of you likely already know that Lynx Edicions is embarking on an ambitious project to produce compact bird guides for many or most countries around the world—and you can be sure that sooner, rather than later, most South American countries will be included. Lynx is highly efficient and excels at compiling and disseminating vast amounts of information electronically and via hard copy, and they do it quickly and accurately. They incorporate new genetic findings into their taxonomy as it appears, but supporting genetic data tends to appear in fits and starts and often glacially slow—and will certainly continue well beyond the lifetimes of all of us at SACC and Lynx. Clearly Lynx clearly is not going to wait that long.
“To this end Lynx utilizes a numerical taxonomy system, often maligned, but in the end reaching conclusions not much different, and far more quickly than others including SACC. What they don’t do is adhere to the almost untenable goal of attempting to coin a new unique English name for every split. Whether one quibbles with numerical taxonomy or not, names need to be invented on a timely basis with the goal of being useful. Eugene Eisenmann faced this when he help Meyer de Schauensee standardize South American bird names for the latter’s Red book (1966) and Blue book (1970). Prior to that point names were all over the map. But Eisenmann fell into the trap of trying to make as many names as possible descriptive by using colors. It seems like a good idea—until you actually had to use these confusing names—and now with hundreds of new taxa needing names every year it is only getting more confusing. e.g. Rufous-fronted, Rufous-crowned, Rufous naped, Rufous-cheeked, . . . and then start over with gray, or buff, or tawny, or ochre or some other obscure color. We end up with 50 shades of gray (no pun intended) on all kinds of birds, some related, some not, or 50 shades of rufous and so on. And SACC is doing this all over again—Russet versus Rufescent versus Tawny antshrike?
“I checked the species account on Lynx’s HBW Alive website for Russet Antshrike. It is already split, although not exactly as SACC is doing. In fact, when SACC splits out the aequatorialis group, as they surely will in due time, SACC will have three species of Russet Antshrikes (anabatinus, aequatorialis and rufescens), whereas HBW has, at present at least, only two (anabatinus and aequatorialis), in both cases based largely on numerical taxonomy. But—the key difference is in the names. HBW simply names them Western Russet Antshrike (anabatinus) and Eastern Russet Antshrike (aequatorialis). If southern rufescens gets split out (and I’m betting HBW will pick that up soon enough), then it may well become, logically enough, Southern Russet Antshrike. It is all quick, simple and very easy to remember. SACC could simply call rufescens the Southern Russet Antshrike. Leave the other name alone. Then, if later on SACC splits out aequatorialis, just add Western and Eastern to the cis- and trans- forms and you’re done. No committee meetings necessary.
“Now, I also scanned through some of HBW Alive’s species accounts and they have done this same thing over and over with new splits. Nearly always retaining the “mother” name and just adding a modifier—most often a compass direction (Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern, Central), occasionally a geographical region (Amazonian, Guianan, Andean, Sierra Nevada, Rio Negro, Napo, Choco), country name (Costa Rican, Colombian), a size difference (Greater, Lesser) and so on, but only very infrequently a new color (Cerise, Violet, or something attention-getting). Yes, the name might be a little longer. But why do we really care if the name is a little longer? We should care more about if it is easily modified in the future (no need for more round-table discussions), minimally confusing and especially if it is easy to recall.
“For those of use that actually use English names in our professions (that leaves out most SACC members), HBW’s naming system (if that is what it is) greatly simplifies the process of recalling names—in other words if you can remember the “mother” name you will also have a good idea of how six or eight splits of that “mother” species filter out. SACC did this with the warbling-antbird group and it worked well. SACC should employ this simplified system more often. It is much easier to organize and recall the hundreds and hundreds of names (soon to be thousands I fear) and the little bits of taxonomic flotsam in the system if they are somehow connected, but also there is another important reason why SACC should move in this direction and it involves working at an international level with the goal of a single unified English language name system.
“Lynx Edicions method of dealing with new names for birds is heavily biased toward using a relatively small number of categories mentioned above (especially compass directions) but the system makes recalling names easy. And, like it or now, they are about to flood the planet with high quality bird identification guides using their illustrations and their names. In fact, they are already well on their way with the completion of their remarkable handbook series, more recent checklist, web sites and other works in process. SACC is producing, at great labor, a unique and laudable, peer-reviewed system of taxonomy for South American birds, but the burden of trying to coin new and unique English names, by throwing away perfectly usable “mother” names every time there is a taxonomic split is slow and cumbersome and counterproductive for users of these names. In the end, SACC’s English names may not see much daylight if major publishers of bird books don’t use them.”
Comments from Jaramillo: “NO. Although I hate long compound names, I do think that in this case, the name "Russet Antshrike" should survive in some form. Interestingly, the part that pops out from your specimen photos are the pale bellies vs rufous bellies. But Pale-bellied Russet Antshrike may be too much for some to swallow.
“Also, regarding Steve Hilty's thoughts on recollection of names, I get it, it can be a bear to remember new names. But then again, not insurmountable. But I would look longer term. The only people who will have to recollect what is what are those in the field today. The younger birders will just know the new name and have no idea that it was called something else before. So, names that are just good, descriptive, memorable, or what have you are best. Using northern or southern, also assumes you know the entire avifauna and realize there is one to your north or south that is related.”
Comments from Stotz: “YES. I think Tawny is a good, solid name for the northern species. I prefer it to a compound name version or keeping Russet for the northern birds. Part of this comes from the fact that I know Thamnistes from the fringe of Amazonia, so Russet Antshrike is associated with those birds rather than the Central American birds.”
Additional comment from Remsen: “Like Doug, “Russet Antshrike” has always referred to rufescens, and I for many years I was only barely aware that the species also occurred as a pale-bellied ‘deviant’ form in Middle America. So, just as with “Slaty Thrush”, primary association depends on one’s background.”
Comments from Josh Beck: “I think the argument for stability should receive more weight in this case. My personal impression is that Russet Antshrike (sensu lato) is far more commonly observed in Middle America and west of the Andes than east of the Andes, so I took a quick look at raw data output from eBird for the broader T anabatinus. eBird has a bit over 6000 records of the species. There are no records of gularis, 128 records for rufescens, 247 records for aequatorialis, and 5841 records for the trans-Andean forms (anabatinus following this split). I can also count 15+ currently widely used field guides that use the common name Russet Antshrike from Mexico to Ecuador. I also personally don't see Tawny Antshrike as a particularly better or more memorable name, just different, but will avoid the 50 shades of gray argument again. Essentially, there are far more birders and national/regional guides that use Russet Antshrike to refer to trans-Andean birds than cis-Andean and as a result I am much in favor of one of the two options that retains Russet Antshrike as an English name: A) keeping Russet Antshrike for anabatinus and giving rufescens a unique name (Rufescent or other), or B) using compound names (Western or Northern vs Southern Russet-Antshrike) if it is viewed as likely that there will be further splits in the future.”
Comments from Zimmer: “NO. I’m really on the fence on this one. I would start by saying that I think Josh Beck’s analysis is spot-on in that the name “Russet Antshrike” is far more familiar and more often in use (in literature, eBird, trip lists, etc.) with respect to the trans-Andean populations, particularly from Middle America, so, it would be more painful to lose that name as applied to those populations. However, as Van points out, the modifier “Russet” is not especially descriptive of the anabatinus group, and his suggestion of “Tawny” and “Rufescent” is actually more appropriate, even though I generally have an aversion to hair-splitting color-based names for similar species in the same genus/family. Although “Tawny” and “Rufescent” are more descriptive, and attractively short and simple, the downside is that adoption of those names puts us in a box if either aequatorialis or gularis (or both) get elevated to species-level at some point, because coming up with English names for 1-2 additional taxa would put us back into hair-splitting subtle color differences again. The same can be said for what would happen if we retain “Russet” for 6 of the 7 taxa and coin “Rufescent” for rufescens, only to find out later that we need one or more new English names for aequatorialis/gularis. For this reason, I think that using a hyphenated group name of “Russet-Antshrike” is the best way to go, because: A) it retains the history of “Russet Antshrike”; B) it’s more informative; and C) it’s more flexible in allowing for future splits without getting into confusing, color-based names. I realize that these longer, hyphenated names are unpalatable to some of us, but in this case, I would join with Steve and Bret in saying that I think it is the best of an imperfect bunch of choices.”
Additional comments from Remsen in response to Hilty’s comments: “Good points, Steve, but the landscape has changed with the partnership of Cornell Lab of Ornithology (and thus Clements) with HBW/Lynx, so whether that also means that Lynx publications with follow BLI names is uncertain, especially those not yet published. Tom, what do you know?”