Proposal (862) to South American Classification Committee


Change the scientific name, family, and English name of the Yellow-green “Chlorospingus”, Bangsia flavovirens (Thraupidae)



Background:  The SACC footnote for the species currently listed as Chlorospingus flavovirens (Passerellidae) is as follows:


67a. Klicka et al. (2014) found that flavovirens was not a member of Chlorospingus and was actually a true tanager (Thraupidae).  Avendaño et al. (2016) found that its closest relatives were Bangsia tanagers and recommend its transfer to that genus.  SACC proposal badly needed.


This species has been placed in Chlorospingus since the late 1800s, and no one had suspected that it was not a Chlorospingus; see Avendaño et al. (2016) for review.


Recent genetic research has made us rethink our understanding of true tanagers and allies (e.g., Cardinalidae, Emberizidae, Fringillidae). For instance, previous “Bush-Tanagers” in the genus Chlorospingus have been moved from Thraupidae to Passerellidae (previously Emberizidae; see Burns et al. 2002, 2003). However, one of the rarest species into Chlorospingus, C. flavovirens, is not a “Chlorospingus” but rather a true tanager – Thraupidae (Klicka et al. 2014).  Furthermore, this species seems to be more closely related to the Bangsia tanagers, in fact sister group to Bangsia arcaei and distributed in the center of the geographic distribution of Bangsia (Avendaño et al. 2016), reflecting a shared history of diversification in northwestern South America (Sedano and Burns 2010).  Based on these new data, I divide this proposal into three specific parts, for each of which I recommend a YES:


A. Transfer “Chlorospingusflavovirens from Chlorospingus in the Passerellidae to Bangsia in the Thraupidae as Bangsia flavovirens.


B. Include Bangsia flavovirens (Thraupidae) in the sequence of the genus Bangsia (Avendaño et al. 2016).


C. Change the English name from Yellow-green Chlorospingus to Yellow-green Tanager.  It was known as “Yellow-green Bush-Tanager” from Meyer de Schauensee (1966) until its transfer to Chlorospingus.


Pertinent literature:

Avendaño, J., F.K. Barker, And C.D. Cadena.  2016.  The Yellow-green Bush-tanager is neither a bush-tanager nor a sparrow: molecular phylogenetics reveals that Chlorospingus flavovirens is a tanager (Aves: Passeriformes; Thraupidae).  Zootaxa 4136: 373–381.

Burns, K. J., S. J. Hackett, And N. K. Klein.  2002.  Phylogenetic relationships and morphological diversity in Darwin's finches and their relatives.  Evolution 56: 1240–1252.

Burns, K. J., S. J. Hackett, And N. K. Klein.  2003.  Phylogenetic relationships of Neotropical honeycreepers and the evolution of feeding morphology.  J. Avian Biology 34: 360–370.

Klicka, J., F. K Barker, K. J. Burns, S. M. Lanyon, I. J. Lovette, And J. A. Chaves.  2014.  A comprehensive multilocus assessment of sparrow (Aves: Passerellidae) relationships.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 77: 177–182.

Sedano, R., and K.J. Burns. 2009. Are the northern Andes a species pump for Neotropical birds? Phylogenetics and biogeography of a clade of Neotropical tanagers (Aves: Thraupini). J. of Biogeography 37: 325-343.


Orlando Acevedo-Charry, June 2020



Comments from Remsen.

“A. YES.  Solid data and fascinating results!  I don’t think anyone suspected that flavovirens was anything but a Chlorospingus.  Hellmayr’s footnote mentioned that it was a very distinct species, and Hilty’s Birds of Colombia mentioned that its call note was ‘coarser and more raspy than notes of other Chlorospingus’, but that’s all I can find; see photos of specimens below  This is perhaps the biggest surpise so far in what genetic data have revealed on bird classification, although much more obscure than, say, the flamingo-grebe sister relationship, and thus a spectacular example of convergence.  In fact, I’m surprised that a popular article has not been written on this amazing result.  I look forward to additional studies to see if there are overlooked Bangsia characters in this bird.

“B. YES (and to follow B. arcaei in a global sequence).

“C. YES. The obvious solution (and ironically close to its original name).  If there were strong competitors for a ‘new’ name, I’d make this a separate proposal – if anyone feels otherwise, speak up)”





Comments from Jaramillo:

“A. YES, genetic data are clear.

“B – YES.

“C – YES, I can’t come up with a better option.”


Comments from Zimmer:

“A. YES, based upon solid data – a surprising result indeed!

“B. YES.

“C. YES, as dictated by the generic reallocation.”


Comments from Areta: “YES to all.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES to all: flavoviridis is clearly a Bangsia (and by now, we should be getting used to the fact that taxonomy based exclusively on plumage colors and patterns can sometimes conflict with phylogeny!”


Comments from Pacheco: “YES to A and B. A surprising case!”