Proposal (916) to South American Classification Committee



Change the English group name for Euscarthmus from Pygmy-Tyrant to Scrub-Tyrant



This proposal is made in while to Dan’s Proposal 898b on English names for the recently split Euscarthmus meloryphus is still pending, so names below for the two daughter species are tentative.


E. meloryphus (Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, sensu lato) is a quite distinctive bird. English name-wise, it unfortunately gets lost among the myriad other Pygmy- and Tody-Tyrants, but it is a well-known species.  E. rufomarginatus (Rufous-sided Pygmy-Tyrant) is also a quite unique, if lesser known, species. A good percentage of Neotropical birders will be pretty familiar with one or both forms of Tawny-crowned PT and have learned the name well, so it’s a bit of a shame to lose it, although a name change is mandated by the species split and conventions for naming daughter species.


There is a nice opportunity here to help highlight the uniqueness of this group, to point out their relationship, to help clue English name users into habitat preference, and to decrease overall English name instability by doing it now, to coincide with the naming of the two new species.


Kevin already had thoughts along this line as far back as his Proposal 702, attempting to clean up the English name mess of so many Pygmy-Tyrants and Tody-Tyrants. Here are the relevant excerpts from his proposal:


”Proposal 702d:  If Proposal 702c is adopted, then something has to be done with the three species of Pseudotriccus and the two species of Euscarthmus, all of which currently share (inappropriately) the hyphenated group-name of “Pygmy-Tyrant.”  The two genera are not particularly close to one another, and neither is at all close to any of the other flycatchers currently called “Pygmy-Tyrants”.  Pseudotriccus and Euscarthmus are not only currently treated as belonging to a different subfamily, but their taxonomic past is even more checkered, with Euscarthmus having, at one time, been variously treated as belonging with either antbirds or gnateaters, based largely on similarities in tarsal scutellation.


Proposal 702f:  Construct new group-names for Pseudotriccus and Euscarthmus. Still another option would be to construct a new hyphenated group-name for each of these genera, which may not be worth the bother, given the small number of species (3 and 2 respectively) involved.  I could see calling the two Euscarthmus “Scrub-Tyrants” for example, although I’m hard-pressed to come up with an appropriate group name for Pseudotriccus.”


This proposal would precipitate a disruption of the English name of rufomarginatus as well, though this is a relatively less well known species and it will retain “Rufous-sided” so the change should not be too hard to adapt to or be too controversial.


Regarding the two newly named daughter species, I feel that an English group name change will actually help English name users remember the new names and is well worth the loss of continuity.


Before rereading Kevin’s proposal, Scrub-Tyrant was the first name that occurred to me, and seems an excellent way to highlight these three birds habitat preferences. As such, I highly recommend a yes vote for this proposal.


Josh Beck, July 2021




Comments from Remsen: “YES.  Here’s another case in which stability needs to be disrupted because sticking with “Pygmy-Tyrant” implies a relationship now refuted.  As noted in the proposal, if ever there was a good time to make a change, it’s now.  Scrub-Tyrant is excellent, as confirmed by Kevin’s and Josh’s independent arrival at that name, and this unique combination will mark a generic boundary.”


Comments from Stiles: “YES for using "Scrub-Tyrant" as the E-name for the genus.”


Comments from Jaramillo: “YES to "Scrub-Tyrants". The “Pygmy-Tyrant” name is now more confusing than helpful, so taking this group out and creating a new name for it does seem useful to me.”


Comments from Lane: “YES. This is a good new group name to isolate this unique genus from the other "pygmy-tyrants" and they are tied closely to scrub.”


Comments from Donsker: “YES to adopting the English name Scrub-Tyrant for the species within the genus Euscarthmus.


Comments from Zimmer: ““YES” to changing the English group name for Euscarthmus from Pygmy-Tyrant to Scrub-Tyrant.  As I pointed out some time back, the name Pygmy-Tyrant is inappropriate when applied to Euscarthmus, because the genus is not closely related to any of the other genera sharing that group name.  Anything we can do to cut down on the confused state of names with all of these little flycatchers would be a “win”, and this would seem to be a particularly good time to do it, since we are recognizing a split of one of the Euscarthmus into 2 species — better to get all of the disruption out of the way at once and get these English names stabilized.  The proposed group name of “Scrub-Tyrant” is one that would be especially appropriate for Euscarthmus, given the habitats occupied by all three species in the genus.”