Larus belcheri from "Band-tailed Gull" to "Belcher's Gull"

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Proposal (#60) to South American Checklist Committee

Change English name of Larus belcheri from "Band-tailed Gull" to "Belcher's Gull"

Larus belcheri, endemic to the Humboldt Current of central South America, has long been called Belcher's Gull [e.g., Murphy 1936]. It became a victim of Eisenmann's irrational war on patronyms for birds south of the US. Meyer de Schauensee (1970) used Band-tailed Gull on the recommendation of Eisenmann and most authors have followed suit.

With the split of the Atlantic coast Olrog's Gull, L. atlanticus [as in 7th ed.], this is a good opportunity to revert to Belcher's Gull for the Pacific coast birds. 3 reasons

1. Avoid confusion of pre- and post-split Band-tailed Gull;
2. Avoid possible confusion with Black-tailed Gull
3. The two patronyms Belcher's and Olrog's are good for the two sides of South America and form an association between the taxa.

Excerpts from a letter from S.N.G. Howell to AOU Checklist Committee, 21 Dec. 2001:



Retain English name of Larus belcheri as "Band-tailed Gull"

Called Belcher's Gull by Murphy (1936), Hellmayr and Conover (1948), Simeón (local name) by Alexander (1963). Called Band-tailed Gull by Meyer de Schauensee (1966, 1970) and most subsequent authors: Blake (1977), Harrison (1983), Johnson (1967), Koepcke (1970), Ridgely (1976), Ridgely and Greenfield (2001), Watson (1975), etc.

The Forty-fourth supplement to the AOU Checklist (American Ornithologists' Union 2003) changed the name to Belcher's Gull, only to have a parallel name to Olrog's Gull (Larus atlanticus), a sister species. This change seems unwarranted and could be called a cosmetic decision. Larus belcheri was named after Admiral Sir Edward Belcher (1799-1877), British naval explorer on the Pacific coast of America and the Arctic.

If SACC adopts this change we lose a very good English name that identifies the species with its most obvious character, that sets it apart on the west coast of South America from the somewhat similar (albeit slightly bigger) Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus). Probably the same could be said for the Argentine coast. However, recently SACC under Proposal (53) selected a name after a distinguished ornithologist which did nothing to maintain a parallel name for another sister species. The present situation is not the same as the name calling, if you may, is in reverse to Proposal (53). The precedence of Proposal (53) should be considered.

I propose that the well-established name of Band-tailed Gull be maintained, as it is a very good identifier of Larus belcheri. Also, stability in the usage of the name will be maintained.

Alexander, W. B. 1963. Birds of the ocean. Second edition. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, p. 90.

American Ornithologists' Union. 2003. Forty-fourth supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American birds. Auk, 120: 925.

Blake, Emmet R. 1977. Manual of Neotropical birds. Spheniscidae (penguins) to Laridae (gulls and allies). Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1: 623.

Harrison, Peter. 1983. Seabirds: an identification guide. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts, p. 333.

Hellmayr, Charles (=Carl) E., and Boardman Conover. 1948. Catalogue of birds of the Americas and the adjacent islands .. Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Zool. Ser., 13: 256.

Johnson, Alfred W. 1967. The birds of Chile and adjacent regions of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Platt Establecimientos Gráficos S. A., Buenos Aires, 2: 32.

Koepcke, Maria. 1970. The birds of the Department of Lima, Peru. Livingston Publishing Company, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, p. 65.

Meyer de Schauensee, Rodolphe. 1966. The species of birds of South America and their distribution. Livingston Publishing Company, Narberth, Pennsylvania, p. 11.

Meyer de Schauensee, Rodolphe. 1970. A guide to the birds of South America. Livingston Publishing Company, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, p. 11.

Murphy, Robert Cushman. 1936. Oceanic Birds of South America. MacMillan Co., New York, 2: 1052.

Ridgely, Robert S. 1976. A guide to the birds of Panama. Princeton Univ. Press, p. 109.

Ridgely, Robert S., and Paul J. Greenfield. 2001. The birds of Ecuador: status, distribution, and taxonomy. Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, New York, 1: 241

Watson, George E. 1975. Birds of the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic. Amer. Geophysical Union, Washington, p. 218.

Manuel A. Plenge, Lima, 2 October 2003


Comments from Stiles: "[YES]. ... had AOU not gone with Belcher's I would have been perfectly happy to keep Band-tailed (appropriate, if not exclusive/diagnostic). However, since we are an AOU committee it would seem a bit odd if we were to come up with different English names, no? And Belcher's does have the advantage of being a mnemonic for the Latin name.. so, yawning slightly, I'll go with Belcher's."

Comments from Stotz: "I tentatively vote YES, change to Belcher's Gull. I guess my argument here is that this is a split atlanticus from belcheri, and should be accompanied by an English name change to avoid confusion. Given that the species is apparently a vagrant to the Gulf of Mexico and Panama, I think it makes sense to be clear that birds belong to the Pacific taxon, and not to an undefined entity that could include both."

Comments from Robbins: "[YES] I have no strong feelings concerning this one, but given that AOU has adopted "Belcher's" as a name, I'll vote in favor of following them, i.e., "yes" on this proposal.

Comments from Jaramillo: "YES ­ Change to Belcher's Gull. An unattractive name, but one that does have benefits. I do like the idea of splits having brand new English names, and the retention of the old name to refer to the entire group/complex. So in this case we could use "band-tailed gulls" to refer to the two, and the patronyms Belcher's and Olrog's to refer to the individual components. Band-tailed Gull has a long history, but most of it pre-split, changing a name now to partially accommodate for the split seems perfectly reasonable to me Also note that the tail band is not diagnostic, second year Kelp Gulls have a nice black tail band often and are commonly misidentified as Belcher's Gulls because of undue importance given to the tail band in making the identification, hey if it's in the name it must be important. This is not a reason to change a name of course, I am just pointing it out to note that the feature is not really diagnostic."

Comments from Zimmer: "I vote "YES", for reasons of symmetry, to avoid confusion with pre-split (broader) "Band-tailed Gull", and, because (as pointed out by Alvaro) the emphasis on the tail-band does cause birders to misidentify subadult Kelp Gulls with tail bands."

Comments from Nores: "[YES] Si estoy de acuerdo de cambiar el nombre de Band-tailed Gull por Belcher´s Gull. El diseño de la cola de Larus belcheri es igual que el de Larus atlanticus y por lo tanto el nombre es de Band-tailed Gull es válido para las dos especies."

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