Proposal (843) to South American Classification Committee


Split Gallinago magellanica from G. paraguaiae and establish English names for both species


Effect on SACC list: this proposal would (A) add a species, Gallinago magellanica, to the list and (B) establish an English name for it.


Background: current SACC note reads”


“4. Species limits in New World Gallinago have been fluid and controversial, and not based on explicit analyses.  Many authors (e.g., Peters 1934, Pinto 1938, Hellmayr & Conover 1948b) have considered paraguaiae, magellanica, and andina to be conspecific.  Additionally, Gallinago paraguaiae was considered conspecific with G. [gallinago] delicata by Phelps & Phelps (1958a), Meyer de Schauensee (1970), and Blake (1977). Fjeldså and Krabbe (1990) placed magellanica with paraguaiae but erred in calling this species G. magellanica because paraguaiae is the earlier name.  Any arrangement of species limits in these taxa is based largely on anecdotal data, and this group is badly in need of formal study, especially given that differences in displays and vocalizations among paraguaiae, magellanica, and andina have been reported (Jaramillo 2003). Proposal needed.”


New information:


PART A - Species limits

Miller et al. (2019) presented qualitative and quantitative analyses comparing breeding ground vocalizations and winnowing displays of both subspecies of G. paraguaiae (paraguaiae and magellanica) and nominate G. andina (of which a second subspecies which is known from but two specimens, innotata, remains vocally unknown). Sounds of the two taxa differed qualitatively and quantitatively. Both taxa utter two types of ground call (Fig. 1). In G. p. paraguaiae, the calls are bouts of identical sound elements repeated rhythmically and slowly (about five elements per second (Hz); Fig. 1 first line) or rapidly (about 11 Hz; Fig. 1 second line). One call of G. p. magellanica is qualitatively similar to those of G. p. paraguaiae but sound elements are repeated more slowly (about 3 Hz; Fig. 1 third line). However, its other call type differs strikingly: it is a bout of rhythmically repeated sound couplets, each containing two kinds of sound element (Fig. 1 fourth line). The Winnow of G. p. paraguaiae is a series of sound elements that gradually increase in duration and energy (Fig 2 first line), whereas that of G. p. magellanica has two or more kinds of sound element that roughly alternate and are repeated as sets, imparting a stuttering quality (Fig 2 second line). Sounds of the related Puna Snipe (Gallinago andina) resemble it but differ quantitatively from those of G. p. paraguaiae (see Fig. 7 in Miller et al. 2019). Differences in breeding sounds of G. p. paraguaiae and G. p. magellanica are clear and consistent throughout their large geographical range. Therefore, Miller et al. (2019) suggested that the two taxa be considered different species: G. paraguaiae east of the Andes in much of South America except Patagonia, and G. magellanica in central and southern Chile, Argentina east of the Andes across Patagonia, and Falklands/Malvinas. The vocal differentiation of G. andina supports species rank for this taxon. Finally, all three taxa differ in size and relative proportion of outer rectrices, which are thought to be important in sound production during winnowing (see Table 1 in Miller et al 2019).


Examples of sounds

Example of paraguaiae winnow:

Example of magellanica winnow:

See also examples here:


PART B - English names


Miller et al. (2019) did not propose any English names for these species.


We offer a single and straightforward name for G. magellanica:


B1-We think that Magellanic Snipe is a fine name for G. magellanica, since it extends from the central Andes of Chile and Argentina to islands in the South-west Atlantic, including the Falklands/Malvinas.


We offer three alternative names for G. paraguaiae:


B2-One proposal is to keep South American Snipe for G. paraguaiae. A sister relationship for paraguaiae and magellanica has not been shown, and paraguaiae is by far the most widespread of the two and the one with presence in more South American countries (i.e., it is truly South American). This is also a widely used name that refers to the default snipe to be found in most places in South America.


B3 –Some SACC members may be concerned over keeping South American for G. paraguaiae. If 2 fails based on this, Paraguayan Snipe has been used informally for G. paraguaiae. It is not a good name, as its distribution is much wider than Paraguay. We suggest it should not be used as a name.


B4-Another option would be to use Neotropical Snipe for G. paraguaiae. However, we feel this is inaccurate, and creates an unnecessarily novel name for a well-known species.



Recommendation: we recommend a Yes vote to parts A (recognize G. magellanica), B1 (Magellanic Snipe) and B2 (South American Snipe), but offer B3 and B4 in case B2 fails. This  would recognize G. magellanica (Magellanic Snipe) as a different species from G. paraguaiae (South American Snipe).



Miller, E. H., J. I. Areta, A. Jaramillo, S. Imberti, and R. Matus (2019). Snipe taxonomy based on vocal and non-vocal sound displays: the South American Snipe is two species. Ibis:






Fig. 1. The two subspecies of South American Snipe differ in their ground calls both quantitatively and qualitatively. paraguaiae utters “slow chip” and “ fast chip” calls (upper two panels, respectively). magellanica also has two kinds of call, one (“chip”) resembling those of paraguaiae, but the other (“chipper”) consisting of two alternating types of call (third and bottom panels, respectively). Top panel. Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (32o7’S 52o13’W), 1 August 2008. Recording by Nick Athanas (xeno-canto #22080). Second panel, Chaco, Argentina (26o0’S 59o0’W), 15 May 2015. Recording by Juan Ignacio Areta. Third panel. ‎Chiloé (Isla, Chile (41o48’S 73o55W), 1 September 2006. Recorded by Edward H. Miller. Bottom panel. Malvinas/Falkland Islands (51o15’S 60o34’W), 15 December 2010. Recorded by Laurent Demongin (International Bird Collection #1127147).





Fig. 2. “Winnow” sounds of South American Snipe, subspecies paraguaiae (upper) and magellanica (lower) in breeding-season aerial displays, shown as spectrograms (frequency (“pitch”) x time). The sound of G. p. paraguaiae is a series of broadband pulses that increase gradually in duration and amplitude (“loudness”) over each “winnow”, until just before its end. That of G. g. magellanica is a series of pulses that similarly increase in duration and amplitude over the sound, but show sharper frequency bands and are organized as multiples (couplets, in this example) of pulses that vary in duration. G. p. paraguaiae -- Ñeembucú, Paraguay (25o06’S 57o48’W), 15 November 2008. Recording by Edward H. Miller. G. p. magellanica – Magallanes, Chile (53o10’S 70o55’W), 24 October 2004. Recording by Edward H. Miller.


Juan I. Areta, Edward H. Miller, and Alvaro Jaramillo, December 2019



Comments from Stiles: “A. YES to splitting magellanicus from paraguaiae. the differences in morphology and sounds are concordant with species-level differences in this group in which plumage patterns are quite conservative. The very different distributions are also suggestive of different ecophysiological differences between the two.

“B. Regarding E-names, Magellanic Snipe is obvious for magellanicus; and for lack of a reasonable alternative, I agree with restricting the name South American Snipe to paraguaiae over Paraguayan Snipe, given its much wider distribution on this continent.”


Comments from Remsen: “A. YES. As noted by Gary, these sort of differences are parallel to the differences between other species of Gallinago, e.g. G. gallinago and G. delicata.”

“B. NO, and I think a separate proposal on English names is needed if A passes.  Although correct that it hasn’t been shown yet that magellanica and paraguaiae are certain sisters (with respect to G. andina), I suggest that we have to assume that if one of the daughters retains a parental names, then to follow our guidelines on English names, we should also (1) know for certain that they aren’t sisters, or (2) all other possibilities have been exhausted.  I don’t think the latter has been fully explored --- thus the need for a separate proposal.  Paraguayan Snipe is lousy, but so is South American, which has the added baggage of referring to two different concepts of G. paraguaiae.  Neotropical is also far from ideal.  So, any novel name we come up with may not be ideal but not much worse than these three possibilities and at least it would mark the new concept of G. paraguaiae.  Let’s take some time to think on it and get outside feedback.  Something like Pantano or Pantanal Snipe isn’t much worse than South American Snipe, and at least it has some pizazz.”


Comments from Pacheco: “YES. A substantial analysis in favor of the long-claimed split is now available.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “A. YES.

“B. I will hold off on the English Name issue, as I am one of the people who was involved in writing the proposal. But I will give an opinion. Personally, I feel that there is NO good name for paraguaiae, and Paraguayan Snipe at least you can anchor on the scientific name, and it would be symmetrical with Magellanic Snipe. I will note that for Chileans, the Magellanic region is well south of a huge portion of the range of magellanica. So, it is no better of a name than Paraguayan Snipe. I will also add that the great country of Paraguay has no species named for it, and most South American countries do have birds named for them. For that matter, if we chose to call it Argentine Snipe, I would be on board, no worse than Paraguayan and certainly I would say that it is in Argentina where the original fieldwork listening to these snipe winnowing brought together the idea that more than one species was involved.”


Comments from Bonaccorso: “A. YES. The plumages of both taxa are very similar, but differences in sounds and parapatric geographic distributions seem to support species status.”


Comment from Paul Smith: “B.  Magellanic Snipe and South American Snipe for me without a shadow of doubt.”

Comments from Areta on English names: “magellanica: in this case, I think that going with Magellanic Snipe is reasonable and easy: everybody relates Magellanic to the far south of the continent, and not specifically to the Magellan Strait (note for example Magellanic Woodpecker, which no one complains about), AND it matches the scientific name of the split. Any other name can make things worse: it is not strictly Patagonian either, and it looses the connection to the specific epithet. I can think of many alternatives, but all are problematic.


“paraguaiae has a vast geographic range, and we were unable to detect any meaningful difference in sounds over most of this area, so any name should be broadly applicable.  The sounds are very different, suggesting that they might not even be sister species, although we do not know.  Thus, to me, anything like Argentine snipe or Paraguayan snipe are out of the question, we could go with Bolivian snipe or Brazilian snipe, and so on.  I would use the old name, which accurately describes the range of the species. In many regards, Patagonia is not truly "South American" from the biogeographic perspective, making it a good contrast to Magellanic. It also has the advantage of not disrupting the connection to most of what has been published on this species.


“So, South American and Magellanic are the options I would vote on.”


Comments on English name from Mark Pearman: South American Snipe and Magellanic Snipe for me as well. These are already in use without any confusion as to which is which. There seems to be no reason to tinker with these while  stability can also be maintained.


Comments on English name from Bret Whitney: “I certainly agree! [with Mark Pearman]”


Additional Comments from Remsen: “Concerning “South American Snipe ”as representing “maintaining stability”, that’s completely wrong in my opinion because “South American” has always referred to the concept that we have just voted AGAINST — thus, in that sense you favor instability, not stability, in retaining a parental name for a split daughter, thus creating everlasting confusion and INstability.  If “South American Snipe” were the only snipe in South America, or maybe even the only member of the group in South America, or if it were one of those charismatic names worth fighting for, or if its close relatives were just peripheral isolates, THEN I could see arguing for retaining the parental name for a widespread daughter.”


Comments from Zimmer: “A.  “YES the authors have done an excellent job of detailing rather stark differences in vocalizations and winnowing mechanical sounds, both of which pass the “yardstick” test relative to vocal/mechanical sound differences between other species in Gallinago, and this, from a genus in which plumage patterns are notoriously evolutionarily conservative.  B.  I’m not sure if we are actually voting on this now, or, if we are waiting for a separate follow-up proposal.  Regardless, I like “Magellanic Snipe” for magellanica.  Not sure about paraguaiae, but I guess I would favor either “Paraguayan Snipe” for paraguaiae, or something completely novel such as suggested by Van.”


Comments from Robbins: “YES.  Although it would be informative to have a molecular based phylogeny, the examples of the winnowing are quite distinct between these two.”


Comments from Stotz: “A. YES. Split seems straightforward.

“B-1. YES. I am okay with Magellanic Snipe.

“B-2. NO.I think we probably ought to change from South American Snipe with this split.  That is not a great name to begin with and made even less appropriate by the split.

“B-3. Maybe. Not a great name, but at least it occurs in Paraguay.  Unless somebody comes up with something brilliant I am okay with this.

“B-4. NO Neotropical Snipe is an even less appropriate name than is South American Snipe”


Comments from Jaramillo:

B1- YES, Magellanic Snipe.

“B2-  NO, I am all for keeping names that have been around and have history. In this case, both daughter species have large ranges, so it does create a problem. I am sometimes not all that concerned about the daughter species retaining the name of the original even if the range of the daughters is large for both. However, in this case it is even more confusing as visually the two daughter species are basically the same. So there is precious little to grasp on to for most users of the name to make sense of what a "South American Snipe" actually means. So in this case, I am uncomfortable retaining South American Snipe.

“B3- YES. There is such concern over names that are not all that good, but Magellanic Snipe is not a good name either and as noted, the use of Magellanic Woodpecker works and no one has much of an issue with it. Similarly, Paraguayan Snipe is not incorrect, just imperfect. But it has the benefits of clearly separating this daughter species from the original concept (South American Snipe), and there is a symmetry in having the English names match the scientific names. I realize it will be weird to be in Venezuela watching Paraguayan Snipes, but then again is it all that weird to be watching Cape May Warblers in Cuba? We seem to have survived. Overall any argument against Paraguayan Snipe as a name that has geographic problems, can be applied to Magellanic Snipe. I have been informally using Paraguayan Snipe as a name for years.”

“B4 - NO. Before inventing a new and poor name such as Neotropical Snipe, if all these other options fail, then I would suggest we listen hard to the voices and come up with names that reference the differences in the sounds made by these birds. 


Additional comments from Stiles: “B. YES for Paraguayan Snipe, considering the argument of Jaramillo (and my inability to think of a better name!) Auditive features especially of the winnowing sounds (which I assume would be audible only over a limited period of the year and then mostly at twilight) would seem to have pretty limited utility.