Proposal (861) to South American Classification Committee


Establish an English name for Lophornis verreauxii


Effect on SACC: This would create an English name for the species Lophornis verreauxi that we voted to treat as separate from Lophornis chalybeus; see SACC 833 for details.


Background: The taxonomic background is important here for the decision on an English name.  Lophornis verreauxi was treated as a separate species from L. chalybeus by Cory (1918); the names used were Festive Coquette for chalybeus, Verreaux’s Coquette for nominate verreauxi and Klage’s Coquette for the subspecies L. verreauxii klagesi.  Peters (1945) treated them as conspecific, and this was followed by Zimmer (1950) and all subsequent authors except hummingbird expert Grantsau (2010, Brazilian bird book ;fide JFP).  The first use of an English name for the composite species was evidently Meyer de Schauensee (1966), who indicated that verreauxii had been treated as a separate species and called it Butterfly Coquette (fide D. Donsker), which was also provided as a “group” name by Sibley & Monroe (1990) and the source of the name used by Del Hoyo & Collar’s (2014) HBW volume.  Festive Coquette has been retained by all sources for broadly or narrowly defined chalybeus.


         The point of that it that we can avoid discussion of whether a new post-split name is advisable for narrowly defined chalybeus because it was the original name for narrowly defined chalybeus.


         So, what about Verreaux’s vs. Butterfly?  The non-binding informal poll is about an even split.  Here’s a breakdown of the feedback plus my own thoughts.






• Retains historical name, one in use for ca. 50 years (although likely seldom used)

• Would be the first known usage for the Verreaux who actually published on hummingbirds (see below)

• English/scientific name match makes both easier to learn

• matches Brazilian/Port. name used by Grantsau (2010): “"Topetinho-de-verreaux” (fide Fernando)




• “Verreaux fatigue” (although all other patronyms likely for other Verreauxs, especially Jules Pierre)

• Many people don’t like patronyms period (although there are also many who like them, or at least the patronyms that commemorate names important in ornithological history)






• colorful, memorable name

• already in use in HBW/BLI-based lists

• in the literature since 1966 (although likely seldom used)




• association of Butterfly with verreauxi (or any Coquette) unknown and uncertain



         I lean slightly towards Verreaux’s for the following reasons:


1. I’m all for fanciful, colorful, memorable names.  In fact, Lophornis have inspired them, i.e.. Festive Coquette and Peacock Coquette.  But I also like them to at least make sense with respect to the species.  I can see that Festive is festive in its coloration, and Peacock refers to its extravagant head gear.  But Butterfly?  The only connection I can see, inspired by a comment from Steve Hilty, is that the flared gorget feathers could be construed as butterfly wings in color and shape – see the illustrations of both species in SACC 833.  Of course, Festive and other species could be construed to have butterfly-like gorgets also, but then verreauxi could also be considered Festive in coloration, and so on – that it is not unique to verreauxi is unfortunate but definitely not a deal-killer.


2. The Old World is loaded with Verreaux patronyms, but the New World has only Leptotila verreauxi (at least at the species level or above), which was named for Jules Pierre Verreaux (Jobling 2010), the namesake for all those Old World birds.  Lophornis verreauxii has a clear association with someone important in the early classification of hummingbirds, Édouard Verreaux (although note that his brother Jules was also a co-author on one of those monographs.  For example, in the Zootaxa paper published on nomenclature of the Trochilini by Gary, Vitor, and me, we cited the following:



         So, Édouard Verreaux definitely earned his verreauxi, with something like 1500 pages of monographs on hummingbirds, but whether we also need to reflect that in the English name is a matter of opinion.


         Voting:  YES for Verreaux’s, NO for something else, presumably Butterfly.  If initial feedback is any indication, this one might be stalled forever at 3-3, or forever at under 2/3 majority even if the vote is expanded to a bigger N.  Informal feedback, please, therefore, on whether we should go with a simple majority on this one given that there are fair arguments on both sides.



Van Remsen, June 2020



Comments from Mark Pearman: No real strong preference on this one.  Butterfly has the advantage of being in current use, and as Tom points out is not less meaningful as Festive. I think it refers to the facial ornaments.  Verreaux's could also work for the reasons already mentioned.”


Comments from David Donsker: “I prefer Verreaux’s Coquette myself, for its historical provenance.  In addition to the compelling information that Van has provided, "Verreaux's Coquette" was used by Gould in his seminal monograph: A Monograph of the Trochilidae or Family of Humming-birds 1861-1887 and by Brabourne and Chubb in their early 20th century A List of the Birds of South America.  Considering Édouard Verreaux’s considerable contribution to our understanding of the variety of forms in this remarkable family, I think that it’s only fitting to finally have a species in Trochilidae carry his name in the English version of a member of this family.”


Comments from Stiles: “I vote YES for Verreaux's Coquette as the E-name for verreauxii, for several reasons. First, it agrees with the Latin name, and many Latin Americans, both professionals and amateurs, routinely use the Latin names for want of universal or widely accepted names in Spanish.  Hence, use of Verreaux's would help with communications with local ornithologists (and birders).  Second, the name Festive was virtually universally used (including by Meyer de Schauensee) for L. chalybea before verreauxi was split. The E-name Verreaux`s has priority having been used by Cory, and presumably by other authors thereafter (I cannot check this because by presidential decree, all of us over 70 are effectively under house arrest because of COVID-19, and the decree found me in my rural address an hour's drive from Bogotá). The suggested use of Butterfly for verreauxii by MdeS is strange, as he was definitely not given to flights of fancy for E-names!). Moreover, the  implication that Verreaux's is not in current use ignores the fact that three authoritative books on hummingbirds (Grantsau 2010, Piacentini 2016, and Silveira 2016 - use "Topatinho de Verreaux" (apologies for Brazilian authors: because of my COVID-19 exile from my office and library, I cannot check or provide detailed citations for these at this time).  Third, Edouard Verreaux, for whom the coquette was named, worked closely for years with E. Mulsant, the outstanding French expert on hummingbirds in the 1960s and 1870s. Although Edouard died before Mulsant's 4-volume work on hummingbirds was published, Mulsant acknowledged his collaboration by naming him as coauthor of all 4 volumes (whatever one's opinion of French hummingbird taxonomy, Edouard clearly has a place therein).  Finally. the name Butterfly while cute and "memorable", is equally or better applied to several other species of Lophornis with fancier gorgets.  Another "for what it's worth": my only observation of a Lophornis courtship display was of that of L. ornatus during my pre-grad days in Trinidad. I was mostly working with butterflies at the time and had observed numerous courtships of these, and the hummingbird's display struck me for its similarity!


Comments from Jaramillo: “NO – use Butterfly Coquette.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES. I prefer the English name “Verreaux’s Coquette” for L. v. verreauxii + L. v. klagesi for several reasons already elucidated by others – historical precedence, agreement with the scientific name, the fact that it is already in use in Brazil and other places, etc.  I don’t have any particular objection to “Butterfly Coquette” – it’s pithy and memorable, although not particularly meaningful.  To me, the problem with the proliferation of such names, particularly when there is no obvious connection between the fanciful/hyperbolic name and the actual bird, is similar to that of the overuse of hair-splitting, supposedly descriptive names – at some point, what is supposed to be a novel/memorable/descriptive name, gets lost in the crowd of other such names, so that you’re not sure which, of several seemingly appropriate candidates, goes with “Beautiful”, “Elegant”, “Magnificent”, “Amazing”, “Fabulous”, “Festive”, “Spangled”, “Gorgeous”, “Shining”, “Bodacious”, or whatever, just like it’s confusing to distinguish between 50 shades of gray (Gray, Grayish, Leaden, Ashy, Plumbeous, Dusky, Black, Blackish, Jet, Saturnine, Slaty, Slate-colored…), or between compound names such as “White-fronted”, “White-capped”, “White-crowned”, “White-headed”, “White-faced”, “White-cheeked”, “White-masked”, “White-chinned”, “White-throated”, “White-naped”, “White-necked”, etc.  The same thing goes for group names in hummingbirds, where you have a bunch of colorful, fanciful names that don’t necessarily have a lot of relevance specific to the constituent members (Sunbeams, Brilliants, Sylphs, Coquettes, Sungems, Starthroats, Comets, Incas, Sunangels, Hillstars, Emeralds, Sapphires, etc.)  – at least with the group names, if they are restricted to a particular genus, they can be useful in making sense out of a confusing array of hummingbird species (but, that utility breaks down when you start using group names such as Emerald or Sapphire for a bunch of unrelated species in different genera).  Anyway, that’s my rant on the subject – I prefer “Verreaux’s” but I’m not going to lose any sleep if the committee prefers “Butterfly”.”


Comments from Schulenberg: “NO on Verreaux's. My preference is for Butterfly Coquette.


“First, let me make clear that I have no idea where Butterfly came from or exactly how it applies to this coquette. but it's a colorful, memorable name.


“I'm not implacably opposed to eponyms, but in this case the coquette already has the species epithet verreauxi. In any case like that, it usually strikes me as overkill to also adopt the same for the English name as well, at least in a case where an alternative is available. (this is one reason - not the only reason, but one reason - why I think changing the English name of Hydrobates hornbyi from Ringed to Hornby's was ill-advised.)


TheVerreaux brothers, Jules and Édouard, long had a business trade, apparently initiated by their father, in natural history specimens: they themselves described quite a few new taxa of birds, and they supplied the specimens on which many other names were based. Clearly they were important figures in 19th century natural history. as a result the Verreaux already is commemorated extensively, as in …


Verreaux's Monal-Partridge Tetraophasis obscurus (J. Verreaux 1869)

Verreaux's Coua Coua verreauxi A. Grandidier 1867

Verreaux's Eagle Aquila verreauxii R. Lesson 1831

Verreaux's Eagle-Owl Bubo lacteus (Temminck 1820)


“ …. as well as a lemur Verreaux's Sifaka Propithecus verreauxi and a skink, Verreaux's skink Anomalopus verreauxii. And that's not to mention the scientific names: there are innumerable verreauxi species and subspecies, and a genus Verreauxia Hartlaub 1857 (African Piculet, sometimes subsumed into Sasia).


“It's probable that most of the Verreaux's this or that honor Jules Verreaux, not his brother Édouard, which is who the coquette was named after (see Regardless, the name Verreaux is well-used already, and I don't know that another one is "needed". Arguably, if one still were to insist on using a Verreaux name as the English moniker for a species, it might be time to try something like Edouard's Coquette (in the vein of Anna's Hummingbird or Grace's Warbler), to distinguish which Verreaux is intended; otherwise Verreaux's Coquette, besides being yet one more Verreaux's this or that, still doesn't quite convey who is being honored.


“But I don't know why anyone would want to add another "Verreaux's Xxx" anyway. Doug discovered that Jules Verreaux engaged in some graverobbing while on a collecting trip to south Africa (; Édouard traveled to south Africa to help ship a large lot of specimens back to Paris (, presumably including these human remains. There is more on the story here and no doubt in many other places, if we were to poke around more. he may have trafficked in other human remains as well (, although it's not clear from this just how they were obtained. see also Desecrating the graves of people of color, especially to remove skulls, was a surprisingly common activity for 19th century naturalists (, but that's no excuse - we' should be more sensitive regarding who we honor with an eponym.


“Both brothers are mentioned several times in Mearns and Mearns 1998 (Mearns, B., and R. Mearns. 1998. The bird collectors. Academic Press, New York, New York). There is one account (page 99) from someone present as the two unpacked a recent shipment of eggs and skins from Russia. ‘There was no list or invoice of any kind ... A big note-book was produced, and the two brothers proceeded to separate and name the eggs in the book, as it seemed to me, purely as fancy dictated. I was consulted now and then, and prevented some eggs of Little Bustard being put down to a gull (Larus melanocephalus), but I held my tongue, except when questioned, and a lot of eggs of Redshank were named and priced in the book as a rare plover's .... The naive way in which the brothers confessed their entire ignorance, and shot at probabilities, was most amusing, and gave me a lesson about buying eggs that I have never forgotten. I feel convinced that both the brothers were honestly dealing according to their lights, which certainly were very dim, in the matter of oology, and theirs was the leading zoological business in Paris at the time, 1862’.


“Elsewhere (page 149) is a brief account of their role in transferring Gould's collection of Australian birds to ANSP, after the British Museum turned down the opportunity to purchase it: ‘Gould ever after regretted his action and Sharpe lamented the loss as a national disaster, but the real tragedy lay not so much in the collection's export as in the vandalism of it by the Verreaux brothers, the Parisian taxidermists who shipped out the 2000 specimens. While mounting the skins they removed most of the original labels, thereby destroying valuable data.’


“So aside from the grave-robbing (again, more on Jules as far as we know, but "Verreaux's Coquette" doesn't distinguish, and easily leads straight to Jules), they also are reported to have cut a lot of corners in their business trade. again, is that really something that we have an interest in honoring?


“Finally, I don't really care about the 'precedent' of Cory introducing Verreaux's long before Butterfly was coined. English names had little or no currency in Cory's day, so I doubt that this name went anywhere. When we need a name, I'm always happy to turn to Ridgway, Cory, Hellmayr, etc., just in case they proposed something  that we would find useful; but I don't see any reason at all to be bound by their names (most of which actually were pretty lame or inaccurate anyway) just because their name was first in line.”


Additional comments from Remsen: “I am persuaded by Tom’s comments above to switch my vote to NO.”


Comments from Stotz: “NO.  I favor Butterfly Coquette.  While I acknowledge that Butterfly Coquette is not a particularly informative name, it is currently under use by HBW and so forth, and has a long history already.  In general, I lean against coining new patronymic English names.”