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AOU Committee on Classification and Nomenclature (North & Middle America)

Votes on Proposals 2009-D

2009-D-1: Return Calcarius mccownii to the genus Rhynchophanes
2009-D-2: Add Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) to the Main List
2009-D-3: Add Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) to the Main List
2009-D-4: Transfer Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) from the Appendix to the Main List
2009-D-5: Add Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola) to the Main List
2009-D-6: Add White-crested Elaenia (Elaenia albiceps) to the Main List
2009-D-7: Add Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher (Empidonomus aurantioatrocristatus) to the U.S. list
2009-D-8: Add Sinaloa Wren (Thryothorus sinaloa) to the U.S. list
2009-D-9: Transfer Rufous-tailed Robin (Luscinia sibilans) from the Appendix to the Main List
2009-D-10: Add Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus) to the Main List
2009-D-11: Elevate Toxostoma curvirostre palmeri to species status
2009-D-12: Elevate Caprimulgus vociferus arizonae to species status

2009-D-1
Return Calcarius mccownii to the genus Rhynchophanes

YES - 3 without comment.

YES - for reasons described in the proposal recommendation.

NO. I vote in favor of option 3 (merge all species into Calcarius).

NO. As stated by others, I prefer to merge all species into the genus Calcarius rather than resurrect the monotypic genus Rhynchophanes. That seems like the most conservative approach. I would like to see some nuclear data, but nonetheless, I think this makes sense.

NO. Yeah the bill is big, hence the old genus name, but so what. I would strongly prefer to see all of the longspurs remain in the same genus. I've often wondered why McCown's and Chestnut-collared aren't next to each other in the linear sequence given similarities in juvenal plumage and overall adult plumage, some call notes, etc., but I guess the DNA says otherwise. I'm certainly open to merging Plectrophenaxinto Calcarius. I see lots of similarities in behavior, including flocking and escaping predators, etc., as well as contact notes (both rattles and whistled notes). That makes sense to me.

NO. I’d prefer to see a nuclear gene and agree that this species does appear to be quite “longspur” like.

YES. Option B, given that it has not only a bigger bill but also a short hindclaw. In some groups (e.g. larks, but not pipits) this feature is considered of generic significance. I’m OK with Option C as well.

YES. Option 2. I agree that returning to this generic arrangement fits well with the desire to raise the whole group to family status. In re-examining the taxonomic recommendations of Klicka et al. (2003) it is clear that both options 2 & 3 were presented. In addition, based only on morphology, in 1858 (decades before this committee existed!) Baird presented an equivalent to options 2 & 3 (three genera for the group versus one) and chose the three-genus option.

NO. The phylogeny may be well supported, but it is based on two mt genes (assuming both contribute to the topology). This would not normally bother me, but I am unimpressed with how much of an outlier Rhynchophanes is. The morphological basis for the monotypic genus is that it has a thicker bill and shorter tail than Calcarius (fide Ridgway), i.e. about as bad as it gets in terms of character stability among species, e.g. one could predict a priori the thicker bill because it occurs in more arid grasslands (where seeds are harder) than do other longspurs. Vocally and behaviorally, it is similar to other longspurs, including flight calls that are difficult to separate from analogous calls of Lapland and Smith’s, and a tail pattern that barely differs from that of Chestnut-collared. The only plumage feature unique to McCown’s is the dark rufous upperwing coverts. Thus, qualitatively, nothing that I am aware of phenotypically screams that this is a “different” bird. If indeed the mtDNA topology is supported by additional data, then I would still prefer including Plectrophenax with a broad Calcarius because: (1) vocally they are really quite similar to longspurs, including similar flight notes, and I think the plumage pattern and size are really just minor adaptations to snowier and colder areas; and (2) monotypic genus status should (my taste) be reserved for true oddballs. Thus, recognizing that this type of ranking is subjective, expanding Calcarius to emphasize under-appreciated similarities with snow buntings is much more preferable in my view to resurrecting a monotypic genus for a species that never should have been placed in one in the first place.

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2009-D-2
Add Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) to the Main List

YES - 7 without comment.

NO - for now. I’d prefer to see the photos that show the diagnostic upper wing coverts (the median an lesser coverts are buffy in both species, with Little somewhat paler, but the exilis has contrastingly darker rufous greater coverts, while minutus has almost white greater coverts).  I looked at ca 12 spread wings of exilis (mostly males), and these are quite variable. The greater underwing coverts are two-toned gray and white, the median/lesser coverts vary from white with a bit of buffy suffusion, to mostly buffy. 

YES - although the published photo is not very helpful.

YES. Published photo, verified by experts. And yes, avoid subspecies assignment. As for position in linear sequence, by convention Old World allotaxa traditionally are placed first, so I am puzzled by the sequence in other classifications. An ultra-trivial point, obviously, but I suppose we should be consistent throughout AOUCL.

YES. Go with what others say. I don't know these birds.

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2009-D-3
Add Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) to the Main List

YES - 8 without comment.

YES. I’ll trust the diagnosis on this one, but I would still prefer to see the photo.

YES. An obvious juv.

YES. Published diagnostic photo.

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2009-D-4:
Transfer Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) from the Appendix to the Main List

YES - 8 without comment.

YES. The poor photos of the St. Lucia bird show now pink; even nestling Roseate’s show some pink. I’m sure the photos in Buckley’s book are more diagnostic.

YES - unquestionably.

YES. Published diagnostic photo. Yes, preceding P. ajaja in the sequence.

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2009-D-5:
Add Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola) to the Main List

YES - 8 without comment.

YES. The one photo in NAB is barely distnguisable as a pratincole! Again we are left to trust what others have  diagnosed.

YES - although the photo doesn't eliminate Oriental (I think it does eliminate Black-winged), lack of white trailing edge mentioned elsewhere does. Collared is MUCH more likely anyway.

YES. Published photo, verified by experts.

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2009-D-6:
Add White-crested Elaenia (Elaenia albiceps) to the Main List

YES - 9 without comment.

YES. But should we vote on the split first, before publishing an account that will be instantly obsolete?

YES. Published photo and sonograms, verified by experts. I independently looked at this one carefully and find no reason why it is anything but E. albiceps, which is also one of the expected species because it is a long-distance austral migrant (and an abundant species). Great job, TX birders, on obtaining critical documentation.

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2009-D-7:
Add Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher (Empidonomus aurantioatrocristatus) to the U.S. list

YES - 7 without comment.

YES. I used to use this species in a lecture as an example of the organism with the longest name. I suspect that it still is!

YES. Specimen. Long-distance austral migrant on the list of those species predicted to be found here eventually. Minor note – SACC proposal to remove this species’ hyphen (a good example of a useless hyphen).

YES. Note that SACC has voted to remove the hyphen from this English name, removing hyphens from names that are not indicative of monophyletic groups. This is the only SA species that we did this for that occurs in our area. Can we just adopt this, or do we need a proposal to adjust this name?

YES. Nice to have the specimen documentation.

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2009-D-8:
Add Sinaloa Wren (Thryothorus sinaloa) to the U.S. list

YES - 10 without comment.

YES. Published photos.

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2009-D-9:
Transfer Rufous-tailed Robin (Luscinia sibilans) from the Appendix to the Main List

YES - 9 without comment.

YES. Specimen.

YES. Nice to have the specimen documentation.

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2009-D-10:
Add Yellow-hooded Blackbird (Chrysomus icterocephalus) to the Main List

YES - 8 without comment.

YES. Feilden’s account (Ibis 1889, p. 484) reads “Dr. Manning procured a specimen of this species in the autumn of 1887, which he kindly placed in my collection. It must be a very rare and accidental visitor to the island.” Manning is acknowledged as an ”excellent friend” in the introduction and along with one other friend, is credited with “a large amount of observations” by Feilden. Thus it appears that the specimen has proper provenance.

YES. Specimen. Congrats to Buckley et al. for resurrecting this one.

YES. Nice to have the specimen documentation re-examined and resurrected.

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2009-D-11:
Elevate Toxostoma curvirostre palmeri to species status

YES - 1 without comment.

NO. There is evidence that they are phylogenetic species, not that they are biological species. I think that we should not leave the third segment of the population, in the south, in limbo; it is either distinct or it isn’t.

NO. Possibly correct, but I wonder about contact between the curvirostre and palmeri clades. If you look at the mtDNA tree in Rojas-Soto et al. (2007), there are 2 birds from New Mexico in the curvirostre clade and 1 bird from New Mexico in the palmeri clade. A possible contact between these two groups is not mentioned in the paper, although they do discuss possible contact between curvirostre and southern clades. I would like to know more about what's going on where the two northern groups approach. It would also be nice to see some quantitative data on vocalizations.

NO. Nothing of note that discusses possible or probable reproductive isolation.

YES. I now favor splitting palmeri - the clincher for me is that  palmeri has distinct call note differences, a clear upslurred whit-wheet, as opposed to a two note whit-whit in which both notes are the same. But, a clear case could be made for waiting for further studies. I'm utterly perplexed why Zink and others didn't investigate the south or west side of the Chiricahuas. Yes, as Phillips and others have noted, birds on the east side of the Chiricahuas are like ones farther east. There are roads there. Yet, as I recall there were no specimens of the eastern group taken west of central New Mexico. So, I'm curious about the contact zone. Surely, they must overlap. Why not a biological field study for a change? That's the best argument for not splitting the Scrub Jays for now. Those Pine Nut Mountains await some detailed field study. So, I'm a weak accept.

NO. Probably warranted but requires further research.

NO? Uncertain, perhaps a no? I am anxious to hear the comments of others.

NO. These are phylogenetic species obviously, but I can’t see that the publication provides any evidence or argumentation to support treatment as biological species.

NO. Phylogenetic species based on mtDNA are unsatisfying for many reasons. This needs to be evaluated under the biological species concept and zones of likely secondary contact in Mexico need to be more thoroughly examined (especially for gene flow). This situation still looks like good subspecies to me.

NO. Tempting, likely correct, but wait until vocalizations are analyzed in detail. The publications Browning cited it as a “species” were using the PSC … thus essentially the same as a diagnosable subspecies under BSC. 

YES. This is definitely in the grey zone where people can reasonably differ on where the species boundaries should be drawn. I have looked again at the relevant data papers and vote (just barely) in favor of this split. curvirostre and palmeri are reciprocally monophyletic in mtDNA, and cleanly separate in several multivariate comparisons of their morphology. In terms of mtDNA, the so-called ‘southern clade’ is a close sister to curvirostre, and the southern birds are not nearly so morphologically distinguishable. So I would have included that ‘southern clade’ in the species curvirostre even if this proposal recommended splitting them too.

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2009-D-12:
Elevate Caprimulgus vociferus arizonae to species status

YES - 4 without comment.

YES. The genetic data are very sketchy, but non-monophyly combined with the other lines of evidence indicate where this is heading.

NO - but only on a technicality – let’s wait until Han et al. is published. I’m certain this one is correct, but no harm in waiting until next round of proposals … or perhaps this will be out in time for this round.

YES. The genetic data in Han et al. has the Middle American saturatus forming a not so well supported clade (55% bootstrap) with western arizonae, with eastern vociferous sister to that clade. Vocalizations of arizonae and vociferus are more similar to one another than is the slow higher burry calls of  saturatus, but still they are quite different. All three have the charasteristic whip-poor-will pattern. I think if we recognize saturatus then we should recognize arizonae.

YES. The phylogenetic evidence is rather sparse, but the strong differentiation in the various phenotypic traits supports this split.

YES. Splitting the Whip-poor-wills is a no brainer as far as I'm concerned. The vocalizations are immediately diagnosable and the ranges are well isolated from one another. Behaviorally from my experience the two are very different. I've seen eastern birds perched on about 30 occasions during the day (migration spots) and I walk literally up to within a few feet of them. They are perched on a branch at eye level to well up in the canopy. The subspecies arizonae and related subspecies usually (10+ encounters) perch on the ground during the day and they flush up well before I get near them, as far as 50' away. I don't think I've ever actually flushed an eastern bird during the day that I've found. I usually back up from it! I haven't investigated molt timing between the two groups, but like other east/west species pairs, eastern birds are later fall migrants. I talked to Mark Robbins about this and he said the genetic work was done and that the arizonae group was more allied with Dusky Nightjar of Middle America. I see no further benefit in waiting on this one. 

YES. The molecular data (Han et al.) show a clade comprised of vociferus, arizonae, and saturatus but do not resolve relationships among them. Given the vocal differences between vociferus and arizonae and recognition of saturatus as a species, I think it makes sense to also recognize arizonae.

YES. While I do not find the molecular evidence overwhelming, the bulk of the evidence – morphology, egg coloration, vocalizations, and genetic relationships – suggest that species status is warranted.

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