Proposal (85) to South American Classification Committee


Change English name of Atlapetes canigenis


Effect on South American CL: This proposal would change the English name of a species on our list from a novel "Dickinson (2003)" name to a novel "García-Moreno" name or "Clements-Shany" name. [This proposal is analogous to #84, but this one is for Atlapetes schistaceus situation.]


Background: The finding by García-Moreno & Fjeldså (1999) that the "species" Atlapetes schistaceus was polyphyletic left all recent authors scrambling for English names for the Peruvian endemic A. canigenis, which seems to be more closely related to A. melanolaemus and A. rufigenis than to A. schistaceus.


García-Moreno & Fjeldså (1999) used "Grey Brush-finch" for A. canigenis, and retained the traditional "Slaty Brush-finch" for A. rufinucha. Clements & Shany (2001) used "Cusco Brush-finch"; it is endemic to that department of Peru. Remsen, faced with these choices for Dickinson (2003), or "Gray-cheeked Atlapetes [Brush-finch]" from Hellmayr (1938), decided to add to the chaos by christening the canigenis group as the "Sooty Brush-finch." I wasn't particularly enchanted with this name, but I thought it captured the appearance of the bird better than "Gray" -- the species looks like it took a bath in volcanic soot. "Cusco" was fine, but (1) canigenis is not the only brush-finch in depto. Cuzco, and (2) some might expect to find the bird in the city of Cuzco, the more widely known association for the name. These objections are trivial and would not have influenced my opinion if "Cusco Brush-finch" had any historical standing (at the time Dickinson (2003) went to press, Clements-Shany had been available for only a few months.


Analysis: None of these names has any historical momentum, and I'm certainly not emotionally attached to "Sooty." I'd say it is "open season" on finding an English name for this species. Although I think "Sooty" is slightly "better" than the published alternatives so far, I am open to suggestions from you English names geniuses out there.


Recommendation: I tentatively vote NO on this, pending opinions of others.


A "NO" vote will signify sticking with "our" current "Sooty." A "YES" vote will be interpreted as "anything but "Sooty," including but not restricted to the previous alternatives above. If the proposal passes, then we'll have to pick one of the others or invent yet another new one.


Literature Cited:

CLEMENTS, J. F., AND N. SHANY. 2001. A field guide to the birds of Peru. Ibis Publ. Co., Temecula, California.

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.

GARCÍA-MORENO, J., AND J. FJELDSÅ. 1999. Re-evaluation of species limits in the genus Atlapetes based on mtDNA sequence data. Ibis 141: 199-207.

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


Van Remsen, December 2003




Comments from Stiles: "YES, change to something besides current "Sooty Brush-finch. I personally favor using toponyms for species with highly restricted distributions as a means of calling attention to this situation and thus to their potential vulnerability to extinction - hence I favor "Cusco B-F". Cusco IS a department as well as a city, and I don't think anybody in his right head would feel cheated if, arriving in Cusco (city), he failed to find it swarming in the Parque Central. In any case, I assume that Cusco (city) is where one must arrive first to plan a further trip to see the bird?"


Comments from Zimmer: "YES, I agree with Gary that "Cusco Brush-Finch" is a desirable name given the restricted geographic range. I too, prefer toponyms in such situations."


Comments from Robbins: "YES. To be consistent with my vote on proposal #84, I vote "yes". This is one of the few cases where I think using a "toponym" is appropriate given how restricted canigenis is."


Comments from Stotz: "YES. I'm game to go with Cuzco Brush-Finch, although I think Barry Walker would argue that Cuzco should be spelled Cusco."


Comments from Jaramillo: "YES, change to Cuzco BF. Since the traditional name of the place in English is Cuzco, the English name should also be Cuzco BF, not Cusco. If this was a Spanish name then the spelling would be different, but as it is an English name using Cusco will only confuse."


Comments from Nores: "YES, yo voto a favor del nombre Cuzco Brush-Finch para Atlapetes canigenis por su car de endémico del Dpto. Cuzco. Aunque haya otros brush-finches en el Dpto. canigenis es el más característico. Tampoco veo problemas en que la gente vaya pensar encontrar a esta especie en la Ciudad de Cuzco."