Proposal (876B.1) to South American Classification Committee
Establish English name for Idiopsar speculifer
The vote on 876B was 4 for White-winged Glacier Finch and 3 for Glacier Finch. Neither obtained a 2/3 majority, and because both are good names, expanding the voter base seems unlikely to produce a 2/3 majority, so this iteration will involve an expanded voter base and so with the simple majority. The various arguments pro and con for each are in the proposal and comments below.
Option 1: Glacier Finch (already in use in Pearman-Areta “Field Guide to the Birds of Argentina and the Southwest Atlantic”, Princeton Field Guides, 2020)
Option 2: White-winged Glacier Finch
Comments from Donsker: Although I personally prefer White-winged Glacier Finch, I am persuaded that the simpler form, Glacier Finch, as it was initially proposed by Areta and Pearman, is perfectly fine. So, my final vote is for "Glacier Finch."
Proposal (876) to South American Classification Committee
Adjust the English names of Diuca finches
With passage of SACC Proposal 730 to move White-winged Diuca Finch to the genus Idiopsar (far removed from the phylogenetic placement of the Common Diuca Finch Diuca diuca), the name Common Diuca Finch becomes somewhat redundant and the name White-winged Diuca Finch becomes obsolete.
Part A. Common Diuca Finch is now the sole member of the genus Diuca. The simple options are to either drop the word Common (which becomes unnecessary), or retain the current name.
YES: Diuca diuca becomes Diuca Finch.
NO: Retain the name Common Diuca Finch D. diuca.
Part B. It seems mandatary to remove the word Diuca from the species name White-winged Diuca Finch, since Idiopsar speculifer is only distantly related to the genus Diuca (see Proposal 730). With the recent spate of publications on the close link between Idiopsar speculifer and glaciers (Hardy & Hardy 2008, 2011, Castañeda Gil 2015, Hardy et al. 2018), we propose to dub the species name Glacier Finch. It is one of only two bird species that nest inside glaciers (the other being the White-fronted Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola albifrons). An amazing video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvkNvFN-kpQ. Links to the BBC documentary Kingdoms of the Sky, which also filmed I. speculifer nesting in a glacier, are currently broken, yet here is an excerpt from the producer’s (Matthew Wright) diary (see also here for spectacular photographs: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/31kqyFzTvWxNSHC0NKDmLGZ/glacier-birds).
“The toughest shoot in the Andes film involved filming the white-winged Diuca finch – also known as the glacier bird. It’s the only bird known to build its nest inside glaciers, and with a little trepidation, we took on the task of gathering the first-ever footage of this behavior.
“The finch’s glacier nests were first discovered in 2008 and since then had only been witnessed a handful of times, by scientists working on Peru’s Quelccaya Glacier, which tops out at a lung-busting 18,700 feet.
“Everything needed for the two-week expedition needed to be carried up to Quelccaya on horseback – food, tents, generators … and over 20 cases of camera equipment.
“On the glacier, the amount of oxygen in the air was 50 percent of what it is at sea level. Even though we had acclimated to altitude to some extent, we were short of breath, low on energy and struggled to sleep – and it was freezing!
“The nest was half-way up an ice cliff. We could see the parent birds flying in and out of the hole and hear the excited chick calling inside, but had no way of actually seeing the nest itself. However we had prepared for this and brought a remote controlled camera attached to a frame, which could be hoisted up the cliff face and suspended at the entrance to the nest.
“We waited for the parent birds to leave – we’d been watching them for an entire day, and once the coast was clear, our Peruvian mountain guide Koky took the apparatus in his rucksack and calmly abseiled down the ice cliff to install everything. As the clock ticked down, he worked methodically to screw the frame into the glacier, balance the camera to give a level image, and connect up the power and picture cables in a filming hide at the base of the cliff. With 10 minutes to spare, he was done.
“Inside the hide, we fired up the monitor and were overjoyed – the camera showed a clear, intimate view of the nest – and two young, super-fluffy glacier bird chicks were hunkered down inside. It was a real privilege for the team – the first time anybody had seen inside a glacier bird nest like this. After months of planning, and a huge team effort in extremely tough conditions, we were finally ready to start capturing the sequence we’d hoped for.”
The other logical alternatives would be to use the names White-winged Finch or White-winged Glacier Finch. Two other species in the genus Idiopsar include the name Sierra Finch (Red-backed Sierra Finch I. dorsalis and White-throated Sierra Finch I. erythronotus, whereas another (Short-tailed Finch I. brachyurus) does not and is sister to speculifer. We do not recommend using White-winged Finch, but that is another option if the glacier nesting was not inspirational.
1. Glacier Finch
2. White-winged Finch
3. White-winged Glacier Finch
4. White-winged Sierra Finch
Recommendation. We prefer to keep the names short, simple and memorable and therefore recommend a YES vote for Part A) Diuca Finch, and favor option 1 for Part B) Glacier Finch.
Castañeda Gil JA. 2015. Primer registro de nido activo de Diuca Aliblanca (Diuca speculifera) sobre el hielo del nevado Quelccaya, Cuzco, Perú. Boletín de la Unión de Ornitólogos del Perú (UNOP). 10:40–41.
Hardy DR & Hardy SP. 2008. White-winged Diuca Finch (Diuca speculifera) Nesting on Quelccaya Ice Cap, Perú. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 120:613–617.
Hardy DR & Hardy SP. 2011. Glacier bird of the Andes. Pp. 377. In Encyclopaedia of snow, ice and glaciers (Singh VP, Singh P & Haritashya UK editors). Springer, The Netherlands.
Hardy SP, Hardy DR &Castañeda Gil K. 2018. Avian nesting and roosting on glaciers at high elevation, Cordillera Vilcanota, Peru. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 130:940–957.
Juan I. Areta and Mark Pearman, August 2020
Comments from Remsen:
“A. YES. Diuca Finch is the best option in my opinion for reasons outlined in the proposal. Retaining “Common” no longer makes sense. A change to just “Diuca” does have some appeal to me; although a number of ex-emberizids carried with them their “Finch” when moved to Thraupidae, and although “finch” is just a morphotype, I like dumping the name where possible. Jobling says “Diuca” is the Araucano name for the bird. But perhaps retaining “Finch” for continuity is worthwhile, and perhaps a plain “Diuca” might be a little too obscure for those outside the Austral cone, although I personally like it.”
“B. YES for Glacier Finch. As Nacho and Mark have pointed out, the name is so appropriate and so inspired that I am immediately drawn to it despite the novelty, as long as we have to change the name anyway. With disappearing glaciers, the name has an additional, conservation-driven appeal. My second choice, a close call, would be “White-winged Glacier Finch” because this maintains continuity in retaining the appropriate “White-winged”, and replaces the “Sierra” part with a more appropriate analog that further distances it from the Phrygilus and ex-Phrygilus sierra finches. I could easily be swayed to make this #1 depending on others’ comments because I appreciate the continuity factor.”
Comments from Stiles: “YES to Diuca Finch for D. diuca. YES to Glacier Finch for I. speculifer: it serves as a reminder regarding the potential impact of global warning (and of either or both don’t survive the warming trend, as a poignant reminder..).”
Comments from David Donsker:
“Part A: YES to Diuca Finch. It's been the long-established name for this species, even without the "Common" modifier.
“Part B: As for I. speculifer, of the four choices presented, I am strongly in favor of incorporating “Glacier Finch” into the new English name. It’s just too compelling to resist using its nearly unique nesting site preference in the name. I personally prefer “White-winged Glacier Finch” to simply “Glacier Finch” for several reasons: 1. The use of “White-winged” would provide continuity with its traditional English name of White-winged Diuca Finch and would continue to link the English name with the species epithet. 2. The construction of the English name would be similar to that of its two Sierra Finch congeners without having to impose “Sierra Finch” on a species that never was regarded as a “Sierra Finch.” 3. To my ears, the name is mellifluous, it just rolls off the tongue.
“From a global perspective I think it’s imperative to avoid using “White-winged Finch” as the English name to avoid any potential conflict or confusion with White-winged Snowfinch, Montifringilla nivalis.”
Comments from Zimmer: “A. YES, for reasons outlined in the Proposal. Retaining “Common” as a modifier is unnecessary now that there is only a single species of Diuca Finch (I wish we could do something similar with Xenopsaris and Donacobius!) (B) “YES” to “Glacier Finch” which seems an inspired choice, but, as expressed by Van, I could easily be persuaded to go with “White-winged Glacier Finch” for reasons nicely summarized by David Donsker. None of the other choices presented appeal to me, and “Diuca” should definitely not be retained as part of this species’ name.”
Comments from Lane: “A) YES. B) I like "White-winged Glacier Finch" for reasons given by David Donsker.”
Comments from Jaramillo: “A – YES. The simpler Diuca Finch is good, and it will not confuse. Most people just call it diuca, or diuca finch already in the field.
“B – 1 YES. Glacier Finch it is. We do not need continuity with the old name, why? The name would already be completely different as the most significant part of the old name was the Diuca part, and that is gone. So, a simple and evocative name is the clear answer. No reason to make this one complicated.”
Comments from Schulenberg: ”B.YES for White-winged Glacier Finch, but I could live with an unmodified Glacier Finch, so would be willing to bend if necessary to reach consensus."