Proposal (910) to South American Classification Committee



Change the name of Anthus lutescens to Anthus chii



Effect on SACC list: this would replace the name Anthus lutescens with the senior synonym Anthus chii.


Our current SACC note reads: "5. Anthus lutescens was formerly (e.g., Zimmer 1953c) know as A. chii, but see Hellmayr (1934) and Meyer de Schauensee (1966)."


New information: Smith & Clay (2021) revisited the issue of the priority of chii and lutescens and indicate that chii has priority and therefore must be used.


John T. Zimmer was outstanding when dealing with pipits. Indeed he is to be commended for describing Anthus chii chacoensis (Zimmer 1952). In another delivery, Zimmer (1953: 19) realized that chacoensis was better afforded species status and elaborated on his usage of chii as a replacement for lutescens:


"Although I gave no reasons in the paper cited for adopting the specific name chii in preference to lutescens, I believe the course was justifiable. A careful reading of Azara's description of his Alondra chií (no.146), the basis for Anthus chii Vieillot, shows no such uncertainty of application as Hellmayr (1921, El Hornero, vol. 2, p. 183, footnote) thought to exist. Even were the details of coloration less precise than they are, the short tail and tarsi recorded by Azara indicate the present species or chacoensis while the long hind claw (noted as 6 lines) and the pattern of the tail (with a longitudinal white stripe on the subexternal rectrix) narrow the application still further. Neither of these features belongs to chacoensis. "


The situation is put in perspective by Smith & Clay (2021: 119):


"Azara’s No. 146 “Alondra Chií” (Azara [1805] Volume 2: p. 6‒11)

Azara stated that the name of his “Chií” is derived from the clear call note given by the bird when it descends, with the last “letter” greatly extended. He gave a series of measurements (Table 1), which clearly place it amongst the “small” pipits, and provided a detailed description of the bird in which he described a “faint golden tinge” to the underparts of what he believed to be the male, streaking on the flanks, and uniform dark upperparts with pale fringes. "


After discussing some other nuances and misunderstandings, Smith & Clay (2021: 120) concluded that:


"Anthus chii Vieillot, 1818 predates Anthus lutescens Pucheran, 1855 and there are multiple usages of it in the 20th and 21st Century literature (e.g., Bertoni 1939; Zimmer 1952, 1953; Schade & Masi Pallarés 1971; Contreras et al. 1990; Narosky & Yzurieta 1993). Thus, it is available for application under Article 23.9 of the Code (ICZN 1999), and the correct name for the Yellowish Pipit under the Principle of Priority (Article 23 of the ICZN) is Anthus chii Vieillot, 1818. As this is simply a replacement of a younger name for an older name in a well-known species, there is no requirement for neotype designation.


“Another name entirely based on Azara’s No. 146 Alondra Chií is Anthus turdinus Merrem, 1820, and is thus a junior objective synonym of A. chii Vieillot, 1818. "


I want to stress here that at present, the diagnostic song of lutescens is exactly as that described by Azara for his Alondra Chií, thereby leaving no doubt at all that lutescens and chii pertain to the same species. Azara´s original description reads:


"Así lo llamo, por no hallar otro nombre mejor; y porque quando se eleva como la anterior, canta claramente chií, alargando mucho la última letra."


It is conceivable that neither Hellmayr nor Zimmer were acquainted with the song of "lutescens/chii", but at present, there is no questioning as to which pipit Azara was describing. It is a great example of the usage of vocalizations in taxonomy in 1805!


Recommendation: I recommend an emphatic YES, in full support of Zimmer (1952, 1953) and Smith & Clay (2021). Anthus chii has priority, it has been used recently in relevant publications, the situation was lucidly clarified by Zimmer (and inexplicably put aside in the modern literature) and as a plus, the description of Azara is wonderful, accurate and refers to the highly diagnostic song of this pipit. Finally, the usage of Anthus lutescens bypasses the priority of two names.



Azara, F. de (1805) Apuntamientos para la Historia Natural de los Páxaros del Paraguay y Rio de la Plata. Tomo 2. Imprenta de la Viuda Ibarra, Madrid, 562 pp.


Smith, P. & R.P. Clay (2021) The identity of Félix de Azara’s “Alondras” and implications for Neotropical pipit nomenclature (Aves, Motacillidae: Anthus). Zootaxa 4942: 118–126


Zimmer, J.T. (1952) A new subspecies of pipit from Argentina and Paraguay. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 6: 31‒34.


Zimmer, J.T. (1953) Studies of Peruvian Birds. No. 65. The jays (Corvidae) and pipits (Motacillidae). American Museum of Natural History Novitates 1649: 1‒28.



Nacho Areta, April 2021



Comments from Piacentini: “YES for reversing the name of the Yellowish Pipit to Anthus chii, which has clear priority over lutescens. In fact, this is long overdue. Glad to see this corrected.  As a footnote, CBRO is also adopting the change (the new checklist should be out in a few weeks).


Comments from Robbins: “YES.”


Comments from Pacheco: “YES. A correct and well-founded reversal of use that does justice to what was verified by John Zimmer, almost 70 years ago.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES - the proposal looks sound to me.”


Comments from Lane: “YES, I think the argument is solid.  (And certainly "chii" is a good descriptor of the song of the species).”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES.  The priority of A. chii over A. lutescens appears to be well established, and thus, this change is overdue.”


Comments from Claramunt: “YES. Long overdue. Azara's description is diagnostic; therefore, Vieillot's name is valid and has priority.”