Proposal (840) to South American Classification Committee



Establish English family name for the Onychorhynchidae



         When Proposal 827 passed to elevate 3 genera (Onychorhynchus, Terenotriccus and 3 species of Myiobius) of ex-Tyrannidae to family rank, I used the English name “Royal Flycatchers” as a placeholder until we formalized one.  I used that name because (1) nothing else came to mind, and (2) the type genus for the family is that of the Royal Flycatcher, its most distinctive and best known species; also when species limits are studied in that genus, there will almost certainly be more than one “Royal Flycatcher”, as formerly treated and as currently treated by some authors.  (We need a proposal on this).


         I’m not wedded this name, so if anyone else has a better idea, let’s hear it and vote NO.  If you’re ok with Royal Flycatchers, vote YES.


Van Remsen, October 2019



Comments from Jaramillo: “YES.  I can think of no better name, and it would be equally odd to ignore that the Royal Flycatchers are indeed so well known, and just leave them off the family name.”


Additional comments from Remsen: “Just received from Steve Howell:


I heard through the grapevine that SACC has recognized Onychorynchidae as a family, and provisionally I’d done the same for Mexico, with a placeholder English name “Royal Flycatchers,” although that didn’t seem good overall for the group. 


‘I recently came up with “Whiskered Flycatchers” as a possibly more appropriate English name, given they all have long rictal bristles. I don’t know if SACC has come up with an official name, but I’d vote for Whiskered over Royal, and also open to a better idea.’


“I think I like Steve’s idea better.  Feedback please.  I’m not sure if this makes a difference, but “Whiskered Flycatcher” is the English name applied to narrowly defined M. barbatus, which thus might seem odd to inadvertently chose as the flagship species for the family.  Also, although “whisker” has a long, entrenched use in English names, technically “whisker” is a mammalian hair.  Perhaps “Bristled Flycatchers” would be better?  Hyper-pedantic?  Also, most tyrannids have “whiskers” or bristles, so that name doesn’t really diagnose the family; however, searching for “diagnostic” names is often futile, and everyone should be able to appreciate the intention of the name.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES.  Estoy de acuerdo con "Royal Flycatchers" son las especies más "emblemáticas" de la familia.”


Comments from Bonaccorso: “I think the name “Royal Flycatchers” would fit if they all looked like Onychorhynchus, but they don´t, which sends the wrong message. At the same time, since the family is Onychorhynchidae, it does make sense to all them “Royal Flycatchers”. So, I abstain.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES” to ‘Royal Flycatchers’ as the English name for the Onychorhynchidae.  Onychorhynchus is clearly the flagship and most charismatic species in this group, as reflected in the Latin name for the family.  As Van noted in the Proposal, once species-limits within Onychorhynchus are thoroughly analyzed, we are likely to have more than 1 species of Royal Flycatcher, and we could have as many as 4, in which case, it would suddenly become the most speciose genus in this relatively tiny family (of course, that’s assuming no one tackles species-limits in Myiobius before then!).  I don’t think either “Whiskered Flycatchers” or “Bristled Flycatchers” are names particularly evocative of this group, even if they do have better developed rictal bristles than other flycatchers – I’d say that it’s not the character that most jumps out at me when I encounter a member of any of the three genera involved.  Also, I might add that we use “Tityras” as the English name for the family Tityridae, and, although arguably the most distinctive members of the family, members of the genus Tityra are numerically dwarfed by non-Tityra species within the family.”


Comments from Remsen: “YES.  I tried to poll informally SACC members and additional non-SACC people, and of the five responses received, there was no clear winner among Royal, Crowned, Bristled, or Whiskered, although the late suggestion of “Long-bristled” never got full circulation.  Opinions tended to be vehement, so some people are going to be very unhappy no matter what name is chosen.  So, I’m just going to go with the straight voting results above: Royal Flycatchers.  The name can be changed, of course, through the proposal system.”