Scarlet-rumped Tanager is back

Happy news for most Costa Rican birders!

Tanager, Passerini´s, Santa Rosa (2)

The most appropriately named Scarlet-rumped Tanager; photo of a male taken at Santa Rosa de Turrialba by John Beer

On the basis of recent DNA research, the Scarlet-rumped Tanager (Ramphocelus passerini), which had formerly been split into the Caribbean-side Passerini’s Tanager and the Pacific-side Cherrie’s Tanager (Ramphocelus costaricensis), has now been re-lumped (if that’s a word) and given back its former name. This means that we lose one species for our lists, but many local birders were suspicious of the earlier split and will not regret losing two bird names that do not describe the species.

The recent taxonomy updates reported in detail on the eBird news page by Pat O’Donnell include some other information that affects our area. For a thorough description of these updates please consult Pat’s article. Here is my own, very sketchy outline of what will most affect birders in the field in Costa Rica.

Flycatcher, Tyrannulet Paltry Santa Rosa garden (4)

Mistletoe Tyrannulet at Santa Rosa, courtesy of John Beer

The most important one concerns a very common species, the Paltry Tyrannulet (Zimmerius vilissimus), which is now another case of an English name reverting to what had formerly been used in Costa Rica. Thus this tiny bird, easily found in most gardens in our area, again becomes the Mistletoe Tyrannulet (Zimmerius parvus). I, for one, greet the name change, both in English and Latin, with enthusiasm because if I scan carefully the clumps of mistletoe in the tops of my guayabo trees I invariably can find this cute little bird. I also welcome the loss of the Latin moniker, ‘very vile’, which always seemed to me to be too much of an insult.

Seedeater, White-collared, male, Florencia (2)

The newly named Morelet’s Seedeater; a male at Florencia de Turrialba, courtesy of John Beer

A less common bird in our area is the rather handsome White-collared Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola), whose new name in Costa Rica, unfortunately in my view, will now be Morelet’s Seedeater (Sporophila morelleti). Don’t ask me why the ornithologist acquires an extra consonant in the Latin name! Despite the split, I think I’ll stick with calling it the White-collared for a while yet, just in case of future ‘re-lumping’.

Foliage-Gleaner, Buff-throated, Angostura (3)

Hello! John Beer found this aptly named Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner at the Angostura Dam, Turrialba

A split has also occurred with the Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner (Automolus ochrolaemus) because the birds found on the Pacific Coast have been found to be a separate species, on the basis of DNA and vocalizations. The Pacific species will now be named the Chiriqui Foliage-gleaner (Automolus exsertus). Because of its skulking habits this bird is not easy to find, but it ranges all the way down the Costa Rican Pacific Coast to western Panama.

Warbler, Yellow-throat, Olive-crowned, male, Cristina, La Suiza (1300 masl) (2)

Male Olive-crowned Yellowthroat near La Suiza de Turrialba; photo by John Beer

The above photo shows an Olive-crowned Yellowthroat (Geothrypis semiflava), a resident warbler species that is the subject of a lumping rather than a splitting. I do not have a photograph of the species that is now lumped with it and thus disappears (in Costa Rica only), namely the Masked Yellowthroat (Geothrypis aequenoctialis). The latter is now considered conspecific in Costa Rica with the Olive-crowned Yellowthroat, but this change affects only those birders here who have visited the extreme south-east of the country, where its range is very limited.

Finally, two renamed species for Costa Rica must be mentioned. These are the Vermiculated Screech-owl (Megascops guatemalae), which retains its Latin name but is re-baptized Middle American Screech-owl in this country. I have no photograph of this species (see Pat O’Donnell’s article). Although there are several other changes in Latin nomenclature (and even one re-assigned family of flycatchers) the Red-breasted Blackbird (Sturnella militaris) is the only other English name change. It now becomes, much more correctly, the Red-breasted Meadowlark (Leistes militaris). It is the subject of John’s last photo today, a real beauty:

Meadowlark, Red-breasted, male, Florencia (1)

Male Red-breasted Meadowlark at Florencia de Turrialba



One thought on “Scarlet-rumped Tanager is back

  1. Generally I’m not much for the name changes, I have a hard enough time keeping up with what’s already named, but combining two, I like. The Scarlet-rumped seems like a great idea to me. Good travels tomorrow Paul.


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