Proposal (903x) to South American Classification Committee


Establish English name of Gallinago paraguaiae (2)


This version was generated by the comments and discussion in the original version of the proposal below.  Although all of us were initially enthusiastic about a name focused on acoustics, given that this was the catalyst for a change in species limits, all of us had strong second-thoughts when it came to choosing an appropriate name.  This also led to the discussion of the resurrection of habitat names, with Pantanal the leader in a poll (see below).


Pantanal is far from ideal, as summarized in my Comments on the original proposal: Although initially enthusiastic about a voice-based name, many of the comments above have made me wonder about whether this is a good idea given the problems with choosing which name.  As Gary noted, the actual song is not often heard, too.  So, I’m back to favoring a habitat name.  Pantanal is not ideal because it is far from being endemic to that official region.  Pantanal is derived from Portuguese “pântano”, meaning marsh or wetland, so I like that more generic connection, and it is a familiar term to everyone (as opposed to Humedal or Pastizal). I also like the diagnostic Neotropical flavor this adds to the name.”


A YES vote on this version is for Pantanal Snipe, and a NO is for some other habitat-based name.


Van Remsen, July 2021



Comments from Remsen: “YES (officially, as would follow from my comments above and below).”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES (see Comments below)”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES (see Comments below)”


Comments from Lane: “YES.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES (see Comments below)”







Proposal (903) to South American Classification Committee


Establish English name of Gallinago paraguaiae


Background:  With the passing of proposal 843, and the rejection of South American Snipe for paraguaiae (and widespread objection for Paraguayan Snipe), we need a new English Name for this species.


New Information: I contemplated using a Spanish word for wetland, such as Humedal Snipe, or even Pastizal Snipe (pastizal being a grassland). These could work, however they are equally applicable names for any snipe, as the words refer to wetlands and grasslands. These names are not completely off the table for now, but I wanted to explore the sounds made by this snipe and offer a different idea here. I listened to voices of all Gallinago and was surprised at the variety of calls and winnows made by the group, astounding! The winnow of paraguaiae is interesting and has a swooshing sound that is quite distinctive, but it is incredibly difficult to describe. However, the most distinctive sounds made by this snipe are the “chip” calls (refer to proposal 843 for spectrograms). Specifically, the fast chip is something that I did not find in any other Gallinago. Slow chips, double chips, they exist in multiple species. Interestingly African/Madagascar Snipe were quite similar to magellanica in some ways. I would not be surprised if there is a relationship there. But back to the point, this fast chip vocalization is unique. With multiple notes per second, and each note being the same, just repeated; to me, this is a “chatter.” Please listen to these examples:


As such, I suggest we use its distinctive fast ground vocalization, the “fast chip” to name this bird. Visually it looks like most Gallinago, but the chatter is quite distinctive to my ear. I originally proposed Chattering Snipe. However, after consultation with  Tom Stephenson (Warbler Guide co-author), who is very good at describing vocalizations and trying to find a common language to do so, I think Rattling Snipe would be best. His comments were these:


I think, based on general usage, that a chatter describes vocalizations that are typically drier (meaning short element length) and faster.  So that might not be the best for this species, which is richer (more pitch change within the element) and slower. I've attached a few examples that came to mind from wrens and orioles

This term applies to vocalizations that are closer, but I think still, normally, thought of as faster.
Examples attached.

This is a slightly less-used term, but the vocalizations it's applied to may be much closer. 
It's usually more deliberate and with some pitch shape to the elements, as in Alvaro's snipe.

This isn't applied to many vocalizations that I know of. But it's worth considering.”




Recommendation: I suggest we call Gallinago paraguaiae  Rattling Snipe. If this fails, we can go to plan D, or is it X? 


YES vote = Rattling Snipe

NO vote = back to drawing board.


Alvaro Jaramillo, January 2021




Comments from Lane: “A weak YES... but I wonder if a name describing the winnow wouldn't be more useful? After listening to various snipe winnows, I think "Stuttering Snipe" might be reasonable descriptor for the winnow of G. paraguaiae, and it has a pleasant alliteration.”


Comments from Areta: I still believe we should retain South American Snipe for paraguaiae and would like to see a proposal with competing alternatives. First of all, I feel that perhaps our arguments were not clear enough or not enough historical evidence was included in it. I would caution against coming up with a new name for such a well-known and well-distributed bird. It just does not make sense to me. This is just trying to improve something that results in a worse situation. To the vast majority of users, South American Snipe clearly refers to paraguaiae (ask anyone in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, the Guianas, and the answer will be overwhelming, ask in Chile and people will be aware that their taxon is magellanica, largely thanks to Alvaro´s field guide), not to andina (which has been split for ages) or magellanica or to any possible combination of taxa. Second, I wouldn´t call this a chatter (in Miller et al. 2020 we called it Fast chip), and we do not know enough about other snipe vocalizations (especially the possibly sister Gallinago andina) to discard that it also gives a Fast chip (maybe it does, maybe it does not). So why would we want such a potentially confusing name? A new name which may not describe anything diagnostic for a widespread taxon that has been overwhelmingly known as South American Snipe? As I argued repeatedly before, I prefer to keep South American Snipe for paraguaiae. Simple and straight to the point. This will demand a reduced number of changes in people´s minds, books, checklists, etc. It is not a particularly lovely name, but it has a clear and univocal meaning and a long history of usage. Anyone with a minimum background in taxonomy knows that subspecies get often split, but coining a new name for the nominate taxon seems misleading.


“Importantly, if we adopt South American Snipe for paraguaiae and Magellanic Snipe for magellanica, we would be following the names and proposed treatment of Meyer de Schauensee (1966). See attached image. Note also that in that same work, Meyer de Schauensee split Gallinago andina as well giving it the name Puna Snipe. Our "keep South American" proposal mirrors Meyer de Schauensee (1966) completely. We don´t see any need to coin a new name here, and we see no confusion at all with keeping South American for paraguaiae. Thus, I urge voters to reconsider their votes, and to simplify life of birdwatchers and scientists alike. The less we change, the easier the life.


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BTW, see also Hayman´s "concept" of Magellan Snipe!




Comments from Stiles: “I could go with a YES for Chattering – it does sound quite distinctive. My guess is that this ground-based vocalization could be heard more often than the stuttering of the winnow, which would presumably be more limited to the breeding season.”


Comments from Schulenberg: “YES. I'm not convinced that this vocalization is best described as a chatter, but in lieu of a better term, I'll accept Chattering Snipe.”


Comments from Remsen: “YES.  Even if not diagnostic for paraguaiae and even if not a perfect description of the voice, it cues users to pay close attention to voice in this group.  Concerning Nacho’s comments above, I refer anyone who hasn’t read the comments in SACC 891 to that proposal, where it is explained in detail why ‘South American’ is unacceptable and why it was rejected 7 to 1.”


Comments from Niels Krabbe: I would like to point out that this chatter might turn out to be given by more species, including perhaps the poorly recorded Magellanic Snipe. It was not until mentioned by Fjeldså and Krabbe (1990) and first recorded by Navarrete in 2000 that it became known that Gallinago nobilis has a similar song given from the ground, usually by several birds at a time (lek?).

“For this reason I would warn against the name Chattering Snipe. With South American Snipe off the table, I prefer Pantanal Snipe for paraguaiae as suggested by Van.".


Comments from Stiles: “This proposal for the E-name for Gallinago paraguaiae (a rerun of 891 that did not pass), seems to be getting mired down because the varying attempts to produce a sound- dependent name (winnows vs. vocal sounds so far not being overly successful, in part because the adjectives used for such sounds are evidently highly subjective and hearer-dependent. So, I am coming around full circle to conclude that the most useful and applicable name is “South American Snipe”, for the following reasons: 1) years back, we started by agreeing that Meyer de Schauensee’s 1966 Birds of South America should be a starting point or anchor: and as Nacho correctly showed, in this work Meyer de Schauensee definitely applied this name to paraguaiae (in a footnote, in which he mentioned possible splits of this species under the broadly circumscribed species gallinago in the main text). Another possible split mentioned here and with a suggested E-name was magellanicus as Magellanic Snipe, since approved by SACC, and in the same work, Meyer de Schauensee split andinus, with the E-name Puna Snipe. HBW (1996) used the broad treatment of paraguaiae but noted that magellanicus and andinus were sometimes split off as Magellanic and Puna Snipes, which would essentially revert to the suggestion by Meyer de Schauensee, although the latest from HBW did not split off magellanicus. The trend has been successive paring off of distinctive subspecies as species, each long-named and separable on ecological-geographic grounds, which generally makes it clear to which form previous literature refers. 2) It is the only snipe that comes close to being ubiquitous in lowland South America – the only resident snipe in the whole tropical cis-Andean region (except for the very different Giant Snipe), thus is the “default snipe” except for wintering capella in the most northern sector. 3) No distinctive plumage features are evident in the field, especially from capella, and distinctive sounds are difficult to describe unequivocally, and in any case might be difficult to hear unless the observer were present near dawn or dusk (and in the breeding season, which would effectively eliminate capella).”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES” to employing a voice descriptive name (either “Rattling Snipe” or “Chattering Snipe” – note that the Proposal suggests Rattling Snipe, but 2 of the yes votes are saying yes to Chattering Snipe).  Even if this name doesn’t perfectly describe the voice of paraguaiae, or isn’t unique to paraguaiae, it is still appropriate, and, as Van notes, at least draws attention to the fact that differences in voice and winnow display sounds are more important than plumage features in separating species in this group.  I think the reasons, pro and con, put forth regarding retention of the name “South American Snipe” have been debated ad nauseum, and I find the sum of the arguments against such a move compelling.”


Note from Remsen: Let’s go to a ranked choice vote on the voice names, with 1 being most preferred and so on:


A. Rattling

B. Chattering

C. Stuttering

D. Stammering


And just in case we’re getting nervous about a voice-based name (see Niels Krabbe comments above), let’s throw in a 5th choice:


E. Pantanal


Rankings from Jaramillo: “Here is my order. 1. Chattering. 2. Stammering 3. Stuttering 4. Pantanal 5. Rattling.”


Rankings from Stiles: “My vote, such as it is, is 1-Pantanal Snipe; for all of the vocalization proposals, I rank them all as 3.5: too much subjectivity involved in these, so I cannot really make a clear choice among them, especially because most observers will only rarely (or luckily) hear the "song" if these birds.”


Rankings from Zimmer: “In prior comments, I’ve already stated my preference for an English name describing either the voice or the mechanical winnowing sound.  Here is my preferred ranking: 1. Stammering 2. Stuttering. 3. Chattering. 4. Rattling 5. Pantanal.”


Rankings from Schulenberg: “I'm getting very leery of the notion of a name based on sound. we all recognize that paraguaiae and magellanica sound different. but, clearly we're having some trouble agreeing on how to describe what we hear - which is no great surprise to me, describing bird sounds isn't as easy as one would think. I consider our whole effort on that front to be a failure, and prefer to pivot in some other direction. for now I would go with Pantanal (although I'd be fine with earlier suggestions of Humedal or Pastizal). as usual, I'm not the slightest bit worried about the fact that 'grasslands' is not uniquely descriptive of paraguaiae. when such a name is readily available, sure, take it; but holding out for a uniquely descriptive English name for all 11,000 bird species is a recipe for failure at a colossal level. so my ranking is 1) Pantanal/Humedal/Pastizal and 5) Rattling/Chattering/Stuttering/Stammering (which isn't how ranked choice voting works, but there it is).”


Rankings from Lane: “Using Van's new list of candidates, I like: 1) Pantanal, 2) Stuttering, 3) Chattering, 4) Rattling, 5) Stammering, 6) Bralivaguayuvian (just for good measure).”


Rankings from Remsen: Although initially enthusiastic about a voice-based name, many of the comments above have made me wonder about whether this is a good idea given the problems with choosing which name.  As Gary noted, the actual song is not often heard, too.  So, I’m back to favoring a habitat name.  Pantanal is not ideal because it is far from being endemic to that official region.  Pantanal is derived from Portuguese “pântano”, meaning marsh or wetland, so I like that more generic connection, and it is a familiar term to everyone (as opposed to Humedal or Pastizal). I also like the diagnostic Neotropical flavor this adds to the name. So, my rankings are essentially the same as Gary’s and Tom’s, i.e. 1 for Pantanal and 3.5 for everything else.”





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Additional comments from Jaramillo: “If you want to change my #1 vote to Pantanal Snipe, that is fine by me. I really would have liked an “acoustical” name for this creature since that is how we figured out it was different. But it is clear we do not have the language to make that happen in a way that is meaningful and sensible. Also the confusion on which description referred to the winnow and which to the ground song is entrenched here and intractable. Pantanal Snipe works.”


Additional comments from Zimmer: “I’m with Alvaro — It looks like “Pantanal” was the first-ranked choice of 4 of us anyway, and even though I really like the idea of highlighting the vocal/mechanical sound distinctions in the English name, it appears impossible to get universal agreement on how best to describe those differences in a name.  “Pantanal” is a bit restrictive for a bird as widespread as G. paraguaiae, but it is not inaccurate, and is an improvement over “South American” for reasons already flogged to death.  So, I would say declare “Pantanal” the winner and move on to bigger fish…  If we need to actually change our ranking on proposed names for housekeeping purposes, then put me down as changing my ranking to Pantanal as #1.”