Recent species name changes

The most recent official changes made to bird names, both English and scientific, can be confusing. Here, very briefly and without much explanation of why, are the ones that will be of most concern to birders in the province of Cartago, and, more particularly, here locally in the Turrialba area.

First, let’s dismiss a spelling change that converts Brush-finches into Brushfinches (no hyphen). In our area, only two of these pertain, the Chestnut-capped Brushfinch (Arremon brunneinucha) and the rather more common White-naped Brushfinch (Atlapetes albinucha).

  1. White-naped Brushfinch Asociacion Edgar Mendez Vargas

     What, no hyphen? White-naped Brushfinch, courtesy of Edgar Méndez Vargas of the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Ric

Next we have the split in the former Gray-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides cajaneus), a common and widespread species. For our area and for most of the country, this species retains its scientific name but now becomes, in English, the Gray-cowled Wood-Rail. Don’t sweat it for our area, but you’ll perhaps be in trouble in the northeastern part of the country where Aramides cajaneus now becomes Aramides albiventris, the Russet-naped Wood-Rail. The problem is the definition of “northeastern”, which seems vague at best.

Wood-rail, Grey-necked (CATIE)

What’s my name? Gray-cowled Wood-Rail at CATIE, courtesy of John Beer 

A hummingbird that is fairly easy to find in our area at higher elevations (especially on the Irazú Volcano slopes) is the often loudly singing Green Violetear (Colibri thalassinus). Note the recent English and scientific name changes to Lesser Violetear (Colibri cyanotus). The Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae), also found in our area, suffers no name change.

Lesser Violetear Asociacion Guillermo Saborio

Downgraded?! Now the Lesser Violetear (no hyphen); a beautiful male, courtesy of Guillermo Saborío of the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica

The Blue-crowned Motmot (Momotus coeruliceps) is chiefly a Pacific-slope bird but it reaches the Turrialba area via the Central Valley and is not difficult to find. It now becomes Lesson’s Motmot (Momotus lessonii).

Motmot, Blue-crowned (immature; Santa  Rosa; garden)

Lesson’s Motmot, an immature with the new name, courtesy of John Beer

We rarely see the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan (Ramphastos ambiguus) in our area. It was given the new English name of Yellow-throated Toucan quite a while ago, but the latest edition of the standard guide The Birds of Costa Rica (Garrigues & Dean) went to press before the change could be made.

Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled (Siquirres)

John had to go to Siquirres for this one: Yellow-throated Toucan, courtesy of John Beer

The Caribbean race of the Plain Wren (Cantorchilus modestus), one of the most common of Costa Rican wren species, was often called the Canebrake Wren (Cantorchilus zeledoni) and is now so named after being split from the buffy-flanked species found in most parts of the country. I have not yet found the Canebrake Wren here locally but Cantorchilus modestus now becomes, in English, Cabanis’s Wren.

Cabanis's Wren Daniel McLaren Asociacion

No longer just plain: Cabanis’s Wren, courtesy of Daniel McLaren, Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica

And finally, a name change welcomed by many local birders is the renaming of the Three-striped warbler (Basileuterus tristriatus), which now becomes the Costa Rican Warbler (Basileuterus melanotis). This species continues to elude me locally. 

Costa Rican Warbler Asociacion Guillermo Saborio

Costa Rican Warbler (Basileuterus melanotis), courtesy of Guillermo Saborío and the Asociación Ornitológica de Costa Rica


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