Proposal (799) to South American Classification Committee


Establish English names for the two species of Schistes



         With passage or proposal 774, we need to choose English names for the two species.


A. The first problem is whether we go with a compound name (“Something Wedge-billed Hummingbird”), change to “Wedgebill”(as suggested in Donegan’s paper), or go with Daggerbill (as suggested in comments in 774).


No one seemed to support long compound names.  Wedgebill retains the link to Wedge-billed Hummingbird but is not an accurate name in terms of shape or function.  I favor DaggerbillI.  This is both a more accurate description of the bill shape and its function of piercing flower corollas to obtain nectar.  A YES vote would be for “Something Daggerbill”.  A NO vote would be for Something Wedgebill or “Something Wedge-billed Hummingbird”.


B. The second problem concerns the names used to modify Daggerbill/Wedgebill/Wedge-billed Hummingbird.


1. I propose we use White-throated as the species name for albogularis: it is accurate and was associated with this taxon prior to the Peters lump (without explanation) of it into geoffroyi, and has been reinstated in recent lists.  A YES vote would be for White-throated; a NO for something else TBD, e.g. “Western” as in HBW or “Choco” (see below).


2. I propose we use Geoffroy's for the species name of geoffroyi, maintaining the relation to the Latin name. This name has also been used in recent lists.  Although Choco would be a possible name for albogularis, given the wide distribution of geoffroyi I can see no correspondingly descriptive geographical name for it, although “Eastern” was used in HBW.  Under the circumstances, I see no reason to propose new names.  A YES vote would be for Geoffroy's; a NO for something else TBD, e.g. “Eastern” as in HBW.  (Note that Eastern is fine only for the northern (Colombia to C Ecuador) part of the distribution of geoffroyi, but southwards it occurs on both Andean slopes.)



Gary Stiles, June 2018




Comments from Remsen: “A. YES.  Although creating a novel name is generally not something I favor, I oppose the cumbersome compound name.  As Tom noted, “Something-bill” has a lot of parallels in hummingbirds.  The problem with Wedgebill is that it is already in use for Australian Psophodes; not that anyone likely would confuse the two groups, but nonetheless using it also for hummingbirds will have its detractors.  Also, the bill really isn’t use as a wedge but rather as piercing tool for puncturing corollas; therefore, as long as we’re changing the name, why not get it right? “Daggerbill” captures the shape and function of the bill: the distal several mm of the bill are abruptly laterally compressed to such a severe degree that it resembles the blade of a dagger.  A dagger is used for stabbing, and so this match of form and function has an appeal.




“B1. YES for White-throated despite this leaving a daughter with the parental name for reasons stated by Gary, i.e. this WAS that species’ name before an unjustified split.  However, I’m open to an alternative.

“B2. YES for Geoffroy’s, but I could swing to a better geographic counterpart than Eastern if Choco is favored for albigularis and will indeed go that way if I see a majority wants to do that.”


Comments from Jaramillo:

“A YES to Daggerbill

“B1. NO. Choco Daggerbill

“B2. YES for Geoffroy’s”


Comments from Areta (non-voting on English names): “A. YES to Daggerbill

B1. YES.

B2. YES. I like the idea of the common names closely following the scientific ones for this pair.


Comments from Schulenberg:

“A: NO. Sorry, I don't think Daggerbill works well. For one thing, say it out loud a few times: just doesn't sound very euphonious. Wedgebill retains the connection to the old name Wedge-billed Hummingbird, and I find the objections to it overblown. The shape of the tip of the bill is close enough to a wedge to work for me; and the name obviously doesn't refer to the bill being used as a wedge, so that argument is moot. Finally, the issue with the name being shared with a genus of Australian passerines (Psophodes) just is a nonstarter for me. We already live with several other examples of this kind of overlap (perhaps more than SACC is aware of), e.g.


spinetail: Apodidae (Zoonavena, Mearnsia), Furnariidae (Cranioleuca, Synallaxis)


sicklebill: Trochilidae (Eutoxeres), Paradisaeidae (Drepanornis, Epimachus)


thornbill: Trochilidae (Ramphomicron, Chalcostigma), Acanthizidae (Acanthiza)


racket-tail (or racquet-tail): Trochilidae (Ocreatus), Psittacidae (Prioniturus)


None of these name overlaps causes any confusion that I'm aware, and I don't see why Wedgebill would be any different. Adopting a completely novel name is an effort to solve a problem that in my estimation does not exist.


“B: Yes to White-throated and Geoffroy’s.”


Comments from Stotz: “A. NO.  Despite the existence of an Australian Wedgebill and the fact that Wedgebill doesn’t quite describe Schistes bill ideally, I think introducing a new English name here will create more uncertainty than does the accidental overlap with a very unrelated Australian species. I favor using wedgebill.  B1: YES. B2: YES.”


Additional comments from Remsen: “Concerning Tom’s point above, that these unrelated taxa share the same names is almost certainly an artifact of those giving them names ignorant of their use in another hemisphere.  Although ornithology has managed somehow to survive this does not also mean that when we have a chance to avoid past mistakes, we shouldn’t worry about this.  More broadly, the history of shared names reflects mistaken ideas about relationships (warbler, sparrow, finch, flycatcher, etc.).  So, I am puzzled as to why, when we have the facts in front of us, we would go ahead and deliberately make such a “mistake”, given that the basic goal of bird “last names” is to group them taxonomically.”


Comments from Zimmer:

 “A. YES to Daggerbill.  Nobody likes the idea of “Something Wedge-billed Hummingbird”, including me.  While I am sympathetic to the idea of using “Wedgebill” as a link to “Wedge-billed”, the fact is, any other alternative to “Something Wedge-billed Hummingbird” is going to involve a name-change to a familiar taxon.  The bill looks like a dagger and is used like a dagger (and definitely NOT as a wedge), so I would agree with Van – we’re already changing the name, so let’s at least make it more accurate in the process.

B. NO. I prefer “Chocó” as a modifier over “White-throated”.  I can live with White-throated if that’s the way the rest of the committee wants to go, but I think “Chocó” is both pithier and more informative.

C. YES.  Although it’s always a bonus to have symmetry between the English names of the daughter species resulting from a split, I don’t think it’s a necessity.  And, if the committee leans toward “White-throated” as a modifier for albogularis, then we still won’t have any symmetry with geoffroyi.  Gary’s point is well taken regarding the lack of an appropriate geographic modifier for geoffroyi, and the morphological distinctions between the two species are not so striking that they lend themselves readily to use as modifiers.  “Geoffroy’s” does meld nicely with the species epithet, and is already in use in some lists, so I would favor keeping it.  So, my votes would be for Choco Daggerbill and Geoffroy’s Daggerbill.