Proposal (898Bx) to South American Classification Committee
Establish English names for Euscarthmus meloryphus and E. fulviceps (2)
With the passage of the split in this proposal, we need to settle on English names. Alvaro suggested two names, but these have met some disagreement among committee members and alternates were offered. Below are the lists of names suggested and we need to decide on the final choices, so a ranking system seems best. “Pygmy-Tyrant” will be shortened to “PT” for the sake of space.
Recommendation: As I said in my comments on the original proposal, I think Tawny-crowned PT should be retired and a new name should be chosen for the nominate group of taxa. “Ochre” is not an accurate descriptor as that suggests a yellowish-brown color, but the crown patch of this species is rusty, so rufous or fulvous are more accurate (rusty or ferruginous would also work). For the fulviceps group, I like the alignment of “fulvous” with the scientific name, but agree that “faced” is more accurate than “headed”. Honestly, I think that having both species be “Fulvous-xxx PT” has an allure as it helps suggest some relationship between the two among the wider range of unrelated tyrants also called “Pygmy-Tyrants.”
So, here are the suggested options from the comments of the proposal:
A. Euscarthmus meloryphus: (Option 1) Tawny-crowned PT (retained parental species name); (Option 2) Rufous-crowned PT; (Option 3) Ochre-crowned PT; (Option 4) Fulvous-crowned PT.
B. Euscarthmus fulviceps: (Option 1) Tawny-fronted PT; (Option 2) Tawny-faced PT; (Option 3) Fulvous-headed PT; (Option 4) Fulvous-faced PT.
So, ranking these 1-4 for each species (1 preferred, 4 least preferred) will be the way to make the final choices.
Dan Lane, July 2021
Comments from Lane:
“E. meloryphus: 1) Fulvous-crowned PT, 2) Rufous-crowned PT, 3) Ochre-crowned PT, 4) Tawny-crowned PT.
“E. fulviceps: 1) Fulvous-faced PT, 2) Fulvous-headed PT, 3) Tawny-faced PT, 4) Tawny-fronted PT.”
Proposal (898) to South American Classification Committee
A. Split the Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant Euscarthmus meloryphus into two species. B. Establish English names for the species
A. Species limits
Euscarthmus is an oddball taxon, which at one point was considered part of the antbirds due to an unusual scutellation pattern on the tarsi (Ridgway 1905). Euscarthmus meloryphus is a discontinuously distributed species found in a large proportion of South America, but absent from forested areas; this is a species of edge, savanna and scrub. There are three subspecies, the nominate, northern paulus, and fulviceps in western Ecuador and NW Peru. The species has been suggested to comprise two or even three species (del Hoyo et al. 2019), but until recently no formal analysis of this had been done.
Franz et al. (2020) performed an exhaustive analysis of morphology and song of E. meloryphus. A total of 245 specimens were examined, including multiple individuals of all three forms. A total of 94 recordings was analyzed, again from all three forms and including multiple individuals. They concluded that song of fulviceps was quite different from both the nominate and paulus, and similarly that plumage features reliably separated fulviceps from the other two. Differences between the nominate and paulus were few, both in song and morphology. Even though more geographically separated, nominate and paulus were very similar, and it is thought that this relationship may be due to previous connections of savanna habitat in South America. But important is their conclusion that based on morphology and song, fulviceps is clearly a different species from meloryphus.
In terms of plumage meloryphus and paulus both show a broad and substantial tawny crown patch. On the other hand, fulviceps had a restricted amount of tawny on the crown. Instead it shows a paler face, paler breast lacking a darker breast band, and a tawny area on the forehead and lores (photos available in the Franz publication).
Below is a series of three Spectrograms, nominate, paulus and fulviceps from top to bottom. Although there is variation, nominate and paulus are structurally similar, whereas fulviceps differs radically.
Below, Principal Components Analysis results of song variables, red is fulviceps. Note that there is overlap between nominate and paulus, but an average higher PC2 score for the nominate. PC2 is a measure of minimum frequency of certain notes in the song.
Recommendation: These two taxa of tyrant flycatchers are easily separable based on voice and plumage. I think that this is an uncontroversial split. Current vocal and morphological differences clearly result in keeping paulus with the nominate as one species. No molecular work is available currently related to this problem, but it looks unnecessary as far as the separation of fulviceps. The more subtle question of paulus remains, but as such it does not look to be a species level taxon. I propose that fulviceps be separated from meloryphus.
B. English names
Given the much greater geographic distribution of meloryphus, keeping the name Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant is viable. For fulviceps, I suggest a name that has been used already by del Hoyo et al. (2019): Tawny-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant.
del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019) Tawny-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant (Euscarthmus fulviceps). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (Eds.), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Franz, Ismael, Diego Janisch Alvares & Márcio Borges-Martins. 2020. Species limits in the Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant Euscarthmus meloryphus complex (Aves: Passeriformes: Tyrannidae). Zootaxa 4809 (3): 475–495 https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4809.3.3
Ridgway, R. (1905) Descriptions of some new genera of Tyrannidae, Pipridae, and Cotingidae. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 18, 207–210.
Alvaro Jaramillo, January 2021
Comments from Lane: A) YES. The evidence seems strong to consider a split into two species. B) I disagree with retaining "Tawny-crowned" for the newly restricted E. meloryphus. Yes, the lion's share of the distribution may remain with that taxon group, but (at least based on my experience), fulviceps is a far more abundant bird within its distribution, and this may balance out the number of reports for each daughter species. As a result, I would say that new names for both of the daughter species is required, with "Tawny-crowned" retained for the unified parent species alone. Hellmayr provides the following two names: Rufous-crowned P-T for E. meloryphus and Fulvous-headed P-T for E. fulviceps, which I think are reasonably satisfactory, the latter also paralleling the scientific name.”
Comments from Claramunt: “YES. Remarkable sample size and geographic coverage support the conclusion of clear and diagnostic plumage and song differences. Regarding the English name, I agree with Dan that there may be better alternatives. I think Dan has a point: E. meloryphus, in the East, is rare and inconspicuous. In addition, Tawny-crowned and Tawny-faced end up sounding similar and may be prone to casual slips and mix-ups when talking about these birds; at least I sometimes mix up species names that have similar starts. Creating a new name like Ochre-crowned for meloryphus would solve the issue and would be chromatically more accurate. Then, Tawny-faced for fulviceps sounds perfect. (Rufous- and Fulvous- while also correct, would be more difficult to pronounce, I think).
Comments from Zimmer: “ A) “YES. As Alvaro states in the Proposal, this should NOT be a controversial split. As someone who first became familiar with “Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant” in Brazil, I couldn’t believe that fulviceps was ever considered the same species (on plumage or vocalizations) when I first encountered it in NW Peru. The Franz et al. (2020) paper has very broad sampling for both the morphological and vocal data sets, and the conclusions are compelling and rock-solid in my opinion. B) “NO on retaining “Tawny-crowned” for nominate meloryphus for reasons summarized by Dan. However, I don’t like “Rufous-crowned” for meloryphus \ either, even if it was Hellmayr’s choice – “Rufous” really doesn't capture the burnt orange (think University of Texas Longhorns) color of the crown of E. meloryphus. I would be more inclined to go with either “Fulvous-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant” or “Ochre-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant”. Record me also as a NO vote to the proposed “Tawny-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant” for a split fulviceps. I think the facial color of fulviceps jumps out at the observer more than does the same color on the forehead, which is more restricted in extent. Focusing on the forehead in the English name (versus the crown of meloryphus) might represent hairsplitting between the forehead and the crown, and it’s my experience that a hefty percentage of birders don’t intuitively get that in avian terminology, “front” refers to the forehead and not to the breast. I personally like “Fulvous-faced Pygmy-Tyrant” for fulviceps – it rolls off the tongue, and has the added appeal of sounding like a schoolyard taunt (“What are you looking at, you Fulvous-faced Pygmy-Tyrant?”). “Tawny-faced Pygmy-Tyrant” would also be fine with me, and would preserve a suggested link to the more broadly defined “Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant”. I don’t like the idea of using “Ochre-faced Pygmy-Tyrant” for fulviceps, because it would be potentially confusing with the very similar name of Poecilotriccus plumbeiceps (Ochre-faced Tody-Tyrant).”
Comments from Robbins: “YES. The vocal and plumage differences presented in the Franz et al. paper support the recognition of two species.”
Comments from Bonaccorso: “YES. Songs of Euscarthmus meloryphus fulviceps are very different from those of E. m. meloryphus and E. m. paulus, and song characters are non-overlapping (PCA), with a high sampling size. Plumage differentiation is small but diagnostic. Biogeographically, it also makes a lot of sense.”
Comments from Areta: “YES. It is clear that there are two species here and the paper does a good job in summarizing and reporting new information. E. meloryphus is a noisy beast, surprisingly noisy and loud for its size, difficult to see because of the thorn-scrub it inhabits, but not rare or inconspicuous; quite the opposite, I would say that it can be common and conspicuous in central Argentina at least (during the breeding season, but note that it also vocalizes when on migration and during the winter). Indeed, the Argentine name for the bird is "Barullero" (hubbub, noisy, etc.).
“Regarding the English names, I prefer to keep Tawny-crowned for meloryphus and to use the name that is already in use for fulviceps, Tawny-fronted. Both moves promote stability. As a side note, I wanted to highlight that the proposition of changing names for nominate meloryphus, makes the title of the paper treating the split obsolete.”
Comments from Stiles: “Genetic and vocal information support this so I vote YES, which brings the split (part A) to 7-0, thus it passes. Again, the E-names have been little voted. For meloryphus, the candidates are Tawny-crowned (maintaining the name for the combined, pre-split species), Ochre-crowned and Rufous-crowned; for fulviceps, they are Fulvous-headed, Fulvous-faced and Tawny-faced. Here, a 1-2-3 ranking of each name for the respective species might be the way to go. As a starter, I vote: for meloryphus, 1. Ochre-crowned; 2. Rufous-crowned; 3. Tawny-crowned. For fulviceps, 1. Fulvous-faced; 2. Tawny-faced; 3. Fulvous-headed.”
Comments from Pacheco: “YES. The large sample and the good geographical coverage present in the article by Franz and colleagues support the non-controversial conclusion for the split of meloryphus into two species.”
Comments from Remsen: “A. YES. Solid evidence for two species, as many have noted above. B. NO, for reasons outlined by Dan above.”
Comments from Jaramillo:
“A. Euscarthmus meloryphus: 1) Rufous-crowned PT (being used already by Clements) 2) Tawny-crowned PT (retained parental species name); 3); Fulvous-crowned PT, 4) Ochre-crowned PT;
“B. Euscarthmus fulviceps: 1) Fulvous-headed PT (being used already by Clements) 2) Tawny-faced PT ; 3 Tawny-fronted PT); 4) Fulvous-faced PT;
“In this case, I think all of the names are ok really. So I ordered them with 1 being the name already in use by Clements/Cornell/eBird.”