Proposal (892) to South American Classification Committee



Change the English name of Formicivora acutirostris


Background: In the beginning there was an antwren, and it lived in marshes in Paraná. Bornschein, Reinert, and Teixeira saw that the antwren was interesting, and called it Stymphalornis acutirostris (Bornschein et al. 1995), although erudite ornithologists now refer to it as Formicivora acutirostris. But as far as I am aware, this antwren lacked a name in English until 2003, when Kevin Zimmer and Mort Isler called it Marsh Antwren (Zimmer and Isler 2003). This name later was adopted in a leading field guide to South American birds (Ridgely and Tudor 2009).

That might have settled the matter, but by 2004 a similar taxon was discovered in São Paulo, several hundred kilometers to the northeast. As news of the São Paulo population spread, the birding community began to settle on English names for the two populations: Parana Antwren for nominate acutirostris, and São Paulo Antwren for the northern taxon (van Perlo 2009, Honkala and Niiranen 2010). When the northern population was formally described as Formicivora paludicola (Buzzetti et al. 2013), it was given the English name São Paulo Marsh Antwren, with an unmodified Marsh Antwren retained for acutirostris. Ridgely et al. (2016) also adopted São Paulo Marsh Antwren for paludicola, but since this volume did not address nominate acutirostris, it is not clear whether they would have used Marsh Antwren or a name in the form of Xxxx Marsh Antwren.


Eventually different checklist projects began to weigh in. Piacentini et al. (2015) adopted São Paulo Antwren (paludicola) and Parana Antwren (acutirostris), setting Marsh Antwren completely aside. The name game took a sudden different twist with Dickinson and Christidis (2014) and del Hoyo and Collar (2016), however. In both of these checklists, acutirostris was dubbed Parana Antwren, but paludicola was recognized as a species with English name Marsh Antwren; so, Marsh Antwren was retained but now was applied to different species than the one to which the name originally had been applied. (I wonder what the rationale was for this switcheroo? – this makes no sense to me, but there it is.)


Dickinson and Christidis (2014), Piacentini et al. (2015), and del Hoyo and Collar (2016) all recognize paludicola as a species. SACC voted to classify as paludicola as a subspecies of acutirostris (AOS-SACC Proposal 693), and the IOC World Bird List followed suite. The IOC checklist uses the English name Marsh Antwren for the polytypic species, however, whereas SACC uses Parana Antwren.


Analysis: The upshot is that SACC recognizes a polytypic acutirostris but is using an English name, Parana Antwren, that as used by other checklists signifies a monotypic acutirostris. Furthermore, Parana Antwren just isn't an appropriate name for the broader species, in view of its much more expansive geographic distribution (nominate acutirostris is not restricted to Paraná either, but that's a separate issue). What makes the most sense to me is to adopt Marsh Antwren for a polytypic acutirostris; for those who split this, then the names São Paulo Antwren (paludicola) and Parana Antwren (nominate acutirostris) are available.


Recommendation: I recommend that SACC change the English name for its polytypic Formicivora acutirostris from Parana Antwren to Marsh Antwren.


Literature Cited:


Bornschein, M. R., B. L. Reinert, and D. M. Teixeira (1995) Um novo Formicariidae do sul do Brasil (Aves, Passeriformes). Publicação Técnico-Científica do Instituto Iguaçu de Pesquisa e Preservação Ambiental 1: 1-18, Rio de Janeiro.


Buzzetti, D. R. C., R. Belmonte-Lopes, B. L. Reinert, L. F. Silveira, and M. R. Bornschein (2013) A new species of Formicivora Swainson, 1824 (Thamnophilidae) from the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 21: 269–291.


Dickinson, E. C., and L. Christidis (2014) The Howard & Moore complete checklist of the birds of the world. Fourth edition. Volume 2. Aves Press, Eastbourne, United Kingdom.


Honkala, J., and S. Niiranen (2010) A birdwatching guide to south-east Brazil. Portal do Bosque Association.


del Hoyo, J., and N. J. Collar. 2016. HBW and BirdLife International illustrated checklist of the birds of the world. Volume 2. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.


Piacentini, V. de Q., A. Aleixo, C. E. Agne, G. N. Maurício, J. F. Pacheco, G. A. Bravo, G. R. R. Brito, L. N. Naka, F. Olmos, S. Posso, L. F. Silveira, G. S. Betini, E. Carrano, I. Franz, A. C. Lees, L. M. Lima, D. Pioli, F. Schunck, F. Raposo do Amaral, G. A. Bencke, M. Cohn-Haft, L. F. A. Figueredo, F. C. Straube, and E. Cesari (2015) Annotated checklist of the birds of Brazil by the Brazilian Ornithological Records Committee / Lista comentada das aves do Brasil pelo Comitê Brasileiro de Registros Ornitológicos. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia: 90–298.


Ridgely, R. S., and G. Tudor (2009) Field guide to the songbirds of South America. The passerines. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.


Ridgely, R. S., J. A. Gwynne, G. Tudor, and M. Argel (2016) Birds of Brazil: the Atlantic Forest of southeast Brazil. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York.


van Perlo, B. (2009) A field guide to the birds of Brazil. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.


Zimmer, K. J., and M. L. Isler (2003) Family Thamnophilidae (typical antbirds). Pages 448-681 in J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, and D. A. Christie (editors), Handbook of the birds of the world. Volume 8. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.


Tom Schulenberg, December 2020





Comments from Remsen: “YES. Tom’s proposal makes the most sense given our treatment of paludicola as a subspecies and straightens out the existing messing situation with the English name.”


Comments from Lane: “YES. I agree with Tom's recommendation to adopt Marsh Antbird for the polytypic F. acutirostris, with the geographic names to be used should it be split into two species.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES - this resolves the rather absurd E-name confusion in different checklists, and gives the original E-name of the to the first-described subspecies to the species as a whole, eminently logical.”


Comments from Areta: “YES.  Given the conspecific status of paludicola and acutirostris that SACC grants to these taxa, it makes sense to use Marsh Antwren for this species.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES to change to Marsh Antwren, great name. I had not known about the name switch --  that was lost on me. It doesn't seem to have been enough time for so many names to have been used for these taxa.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES. This was the name Mort and I elected to use in HBW even before anyone knew of the existence of S. a. paludicola, in part because the habitat occupied was thought to be unique among antwrens, and, because even acutirostris (sense stricto) was not confined to the state of Paraná, but also occurred in Santa Catarina.  Using ‘Paraná Antwren’ for acutirostris really only makes sense if we were treating paludicola as a distinct species (which SACC does not), in which case there would be a certain symmetry to using the geographic modifiers ‘Paraná’ and ‘São Paulo’ for acutirostris and paludicola respectively. As long as we are sticking with the single-species treatment, which I support, our suggested name of ‘Marsh Antwren’ makes the most sense, and highlights the unique (among antwrens) marsh-inhabiting ecology of the species.”