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English names for Clapper/King Rail split (1 Viewer)

Kratter

Well-known member
Fellow forum members:
The AOU North American Checklist Committee is seeking opinions and options for the English names for the resulting units of the impending Clapper/King Rail split. If passed, the proposal will result in five taxa, with the following English names options (* = preferred):

Rallus elegans Audubon. (eastern North America)
English name options: maintain King Rail

Rallus tenuirostris Ridgway. (highland central Mexico)
English name options: *Aztec Rail. Mexican Rail.

Rallus crepitans Gmelin. (eastern North America and Caribbean)
English name options: maintain *Clapper Rail. Saltmarsh Rail

Rallus obsoletus Ridgway. (northwest Mexico, SW US)
English name options: *Ridgway’s Rail. Light-footed Rail (the old English name for one of the subspecies)

Rallus longirostris Boddaert. (South America)
English name options: *Mangrove Rail. maintain Clapper Rail.

The name that members currently like least is Ridgway's Rail. Ridgway named two of the subspecies of obsoletus, but patronyms should be used to honor taxa named for someone, not the person who described them. We are open to new suggestions and opinions on these names.

Andy Kratter
AOU North American Checklist Committee
 

Richard Klim

-------------------------
Rallus obsoletus Ridgway. (northwest Mexico, SW US)
English name options: *Ridgway’s Rail. Light-footed Rail (the old English name for one of the subspecies)

The name that members currently like least is Ridgway's Rail. Ridgway named two of the subspecies of obsoletus...
...but Ridgway also described two of the subspecies of R crepitans.

'Light-footed Rail' was the AOU name for R levipes (reflecting the scientific name). The AOU name for R obsoletus was 'California Clapper Rail'.

'California Rail' is possibly still a reasonable compromise for R obsoletus (sensu Maley & Brumfield 2013), given that all four subspecies occur in California or Baja California (and although the range of yumanensis also extends from sw Arizona to Nayarit, most birders probably see it at the Salton Sea!).

[Monroe & Sibley 1993 uses 'Western Rail' for obsoletus, and 'Highland Rail' for tenuirostris.]
 
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Snapdragyn

Well-known member
I can certainly say what my least favorite name would be - maintaining Clapper Rail for ANY of these taxa! 'Winter Wren' regularly turning up on reports from Pacific Wren range wasn't enough to highlight the problems inherent in this naming model? Please stop maintaining old names for portions of split taxa!

Saltmarsh Rail - NOT CLAPPER. The Clapper is split; long live the Saltmarsh (& Mangrove for the extralimital species)!

Beyond that, I think Aztec is fine, & would favor Richard Klim's suggestion of California > Light-footed > Ridgway's.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
My two cents:

Rallus elegans Audubon. (eastern North America)
English name options: maintain King Rail

I don't really see a reason to change the name: go with King Rail
Rallus tenuirostris Ridgway. (highland central Mexico)
English name options: *Aztec Rail. Mexican Rail.

I prefer Aztec Rail, as Mexican Rail is kind of boring, if descriptive

Rallus crepitans Gmelin. (eastern North America and Caribbean)
English name options: maintain *Clapper Rail. Saltmarsh Rail

Saltmarsh Rail. I agree with Snapdragon that Clapper Rail being retained for one population would cause confusion. I think the Aztec rail is obscure enough that there really isn't going to be to much trouble with people getting confused.

Rallus obsoletus Ridgway. (northwest Mexico, SW US)
English name options: *Ridgway’s Rail. Light-footed Rail (the old English name for one of the subspecies)

I don't think any of the options are really great. For history purposes I might prefer Light-footed Rail, but that might be better retained in case there are further splits in this complex. I've always thought of them as California Clapper Rail, so maybe Richard Klim's proposal of California Rail?

Rallus longirostris Boddaert. (South America)
English name options: *Mangrove Rail. maintain Clapper Rail.

Mangrove Rail seems fine, although I have no experience with this taxon and would defer to people who know SA bird life better

Overall...I would say that if you are going to keep Clapper Rail, and that is the way the AOU is shifting in opinion, Please Keep Clapper Rail for the other splits, so that there is California Clapper Rail, Eastern Clapper Rail, and Mangrove Clapper Rail. I just really really don't like the idea of retaining Clapper given that geographic scope of the split
 

Snapdragyn

Well-known member
Overall...I would say that if you are going to keep Clapper Rail, and that is the way the AOU is shifting in opinion, Please Keep Clapper Rail for the other splits, so that there is California Clapper Rail, Eastern Clapper Rail, and Mangrove Clapper Rail. I just really really don't like the idea of retaining Clapper given that geographic scope of the split

Ah, but then we run into another problem - ever-growing names! Let's say a further split is found in California Clapper Rail - then we have Light-footed California Clapper Rail, & Ridgway's California Clapper Rail. But wait! Further research (& shifting splitting/lumping preferences) determine that the latter of those should be split yet again! Now it's Northern Ridgway's California Clapper Rail & Southern Ridgway's California Clapper Rail! :p

New taxa circumscriptions IMO should = new common names. Historical research & continued reporting of bird records is simplified, as a given name will always and only apply to a specific circumscription (& a concise one if the 'just add another descriptor' method is avoided).
 

MichaelRetter

Michael L. P. Retter
Thanks for soliciting comments, Andy. Here are my thoughts..

Rallus elegans Audubon. (eastern North America)
English name options: maintain King Rail
*I'd be ok with this, I suppose, but I 'd prefer a new name. "Elegant Rail" seems the logical choice.
PS--Is it known where the King Rails of the western Gulf Coast (e.g., in Veracruz) fit in?


Rallus tenuirostris Ridgway. (highland central Mexico)
English name options: *Aztec Rail. Mexican Rail.
I really like Aztec Rail. Maybe the little, long-tailed, scaly dove will follow...

Rallus crepitans Gmelin. (eastern North America and Caribbean)
English name options: maintain *Clapper Rail. Saltmarsh Rail
Saltmarsh Rail all the way. Maintaining Clapper Rail is a superbly bad idea. Witness the confusion the resulted from maintaining a "Winter Wren". "Boreal Wren" would have been a much better choice, in my opinion.

Rallus obsoletus Ridgway. (northwest Mexico, SW US)
English name options: *Ridgway’s Rail. Light-footed Rail (the old English name for one of the subspecies)
I like Light-footed Rail, but it traditionally only refers to one ssp. in this group. That has the potential to create confusion. Witness "Cackling Goose" for Branta hutchinsii when it was previously only used for Branta canadensis minima. In light of that, California Rail may be the least problematic alternative. I'm not opposed to Ridgway's Rail, though. We have Xantus's Hummingbird, which was de facto named for the dude who discovered it.

Rallus longirostris Boddaert. (South America)
English name options: *Mangrove Rail. maintain Clapper Rail.
Mangrove Rail, far and away. Maintaining Clapper Rail for any of these populations is a very bad idea.
 

Richard Klim

-------------------------
I can certainly say what my least favorite name would be - maintaining Clapper Rail for ANY of these taxa! Please stop maintaining old names for portions of split taxa!
I have mixed feelings on this. In this case, I think it would be a great pity to lose the long-standing name 'Clapper Rail' just to avoid potential minor headaches for eBird etc, and so I support its retention for the senior and most widespread North American form.

Given that these are highly allopatric and largely sedentary species, it should be obvious that any reports of 'Clapper Rail' in the west refer to R obsoletus rather than R crepitans unless explicitly stated otherwise.
 
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Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Well as I stated...I would rather we not have Clapper Rail at all, but if the AOU really really wants to keep it, I would prefer the option of adding a descriptor in front of Clapper

To be perfectly honest...I don't really have a whole lot of stake in this. I think Richard is right in that the split Clapper Rail populations are pretty much all allopatric and from what I understand rather sedentary, so this will cause minimal confusion in the field/Ebird if someone mixes up the name, unlike say Canada or Winter Wren, where the split populations come into pretty regular contact
 

MichaelRetter

Michael L. P. Retter
Sometimes I feel like field guides should start printing sensu stricto and sensu lato next to the English names....
 

ryanterrill

New member
Andy et al-

Here are some of my thoughts on the names

-Rallus elegans Audubon. (eastern North America)
English name options: maintain King Rail

yep - fine with me - though I'm not sure why people are adament about getting rid of the name "Clapper Rail" but not "King Rail" when it is getting split up too...

Rallus tenuirostris Ridgway. (highland central Mexico)
English name options: *Aztec Rail. Mexican Rail.

Either works. Though the name Aztec Rail might be a little better because there are plenty of Rails in Mexico, and the range of this bird: http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/map/?cn=King Rail&sn=Rallus elegans&species=136116
is actually pretty coincident with the extent of the Aztec empire: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aztec_Empire_1519_map-fr.svg

Rallus crepitans Gmelin. (eastern North America and Caribbean)
English name options: maintain *Clapper Rail. Saltmarsh Rail
Doesn't matter to me, I understand the argument to get rid of old names to avoid confusion but then King Rail should be abolished too (to avoid confusion with the highland birds)

Rallus obsoletus Ridgway. (northwest Mexico, SW US)
English name options: *Ridgway’s Rail. Light-footed Rail (the old English name for one of the subspecies)

I vote Ridgway's Rail -- I agree with the authors of the study that Ridgway is overdue for a NA bird name and this group is very appropriate for that.

Rallus longirostris Boddaert. (South America)

If anything continues to be called Clapper Rail this should be it -- being the population where the type is from (and calling the NA bird Clapper Rail would actually transfer the common name Clapper Rail from Rallus longirostris to Rallus crepitans, which seems confusing and certainly wouldn't fly if these were scientific names) That said, Mangrove Rail does have a nice ring to it

World Grizzly Bear list: 1, ABA:1
Last Grizzly Bear lifer: Grizzly Bear
Last ABA: Grizzly Bear
Mammal: 1 Herp:0
 
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DLane

Well-known member
Rallus longirostris Boddaert. (South America)

If anything continues to be called Clapper Rail this should be it -- being the population where the type is from (and calling the NA bird Clapper Rail would actually transfer the common name Clapper Rail from Rallus longirostris to Rallus crepitans, which seems confusing and certainly wouldn't fly if these were scientific names) That said, Mangrove Rail does have a nice ring to it

Ryan, Andy, and all,

I'd point out, however that the name "Clapper" refers to the voice of the eastern North American mainland population, which has the 'clapping' call, but a review of Ridgway or Hellmayr (according to the latter, nearly all members of the Clapper complex included "Clapper" in the name *except* the South American forms R. longirostris longirostris and R. l. crassirostris, which were "Long-billed Rail" and "Large-billed Rail", respectively) will likely make clear which population originally received the name. If any population should retain the name-- and I'm in the camp that none should--it should be that which originally received the name. South American (which extend into AOU area, as they occur north to Honduras, according to voice recordings, by the way!) birds are strictly in mangroves, so Mangrove Rail makes far more sense for those birds.

Does this post suggest that Caribbean and Eastern North American birds will be maintained as conspecific by AOU? Vocally they are fairly distinct. I would think that those birds might warrant a split from crepitans somewhere down the line, as well!

Best,
Dan
 

CSánchez

New member
Hello Andy,


Rallus elegans Audubon. (eastern North America)
>> King Rail

Rallus tenuirostris Ridgway. (highland central Mexico)
>>Aztec Rail. Mexican is large, and R.t. does not include all of Mexico but mainly the area of influence of the Aztecs

Rallus crepitans Gmelin. (eastern North America and Caribbean)
>> Saltmarsh Rail

Rallus obsoletus Ridgway. (northwest Mexico, SW US)
>>> Light-footed Rail (the old English name for one of the subspecies)

Rallus longirostris Boddaert. (South America)
>> Mangrove Rail. Clapper Rail, would be confusing, and since the species mainly occurs in mangrove forests, this should be a good descriptive name.

César Sánchez
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Rallus obsoletus Ridgway. (northwest Mexico, SW US)
English name options: *Ridgway’s Rail. Light-footed Rail (the old English name for one of the subspecies)

....

The name that members currently like least is Ridgway's Rail. Ridgway named two of the subspecies of obsoletus, but patronyms should be used to honor taxa named for someone, not the person who described them. We are open to new suggestions and opinions on these names.

Obsolete Rail?

(runs for cover like a rail would . . . :-O )
 
Rallus elegans Audubon. (eastern North America)
English name options: maintain King Rail

I much prefer Elegant Rail in this case, for the same reason that I think it better to drop the name Clapper Rail for all of the taxa outlined below. Although elegans and tenuirostris are apparently allopatric, elegans at least undergoes some movements and could maybe occur close to the range of tenuirostris. I doubt that we understand the movements (if there are any) of tenuirostris. Has anyone checked to see whether the west texas records of King Rail refer to tenuirostris or elegans. See how easy it was to use "King Rail" in this case, without any confusion ;) Furthermore, all the taxa in this complex have fairly large distributions, so maintaining King Rail for the US populations is biasing the naming towards the location that has more birders (i.e. the US).

Rallus tenuirostris Ridgway. (highland central Mexico)
English name options: *Aztec Rail. Mexican Rail.

Others have given a number of good reasons as to why to use Aztec Rail, which I think is an excellent choice.

Rallus crepitans Gmelin. (eastern North America and Caribbean)
English name options: maintain *Clapper Rail. Saltmarsh Rail

See my comments above regarding naming of elegans. I think Saltmarsh Rail is an excellent choice for crepitans.

Rallus obsoletus Ridgway. (northwest Mexico, SW US)
English name options: *Ridgway’s Rail. Light-footed Rail (the old English name for one of the subspecies)

I don't like California Rail for this species. As others have mentioned, the range extends far outside of California in northwest Mexico. Let's keep the name California for birds that are truly endemic to California, like California Gnatcatcher. Light-footed Rail is a rather poor name in my opinion. Are the feet really that pale compared to other taxa? In my experience, the feet and legs are usually covered in mud! Either that, or the bird is swimming. I realize that there is a historical precedence for using Light-footed, but only for one of the taxa involved, and in that case it was used to the exclusion of the other taxon! Western Rail also seems like a poor choice, given that there are many other rail species in the West. I don't know much about Ridgway, so I'll let others comment on the quality of that name. It may however be the best choice for this taxon, given the arguments that others have made.

Rallus longirostris Boddaert. (South America)
English name options: *Mangrove Rail. maintain Clapper Rail.

Use Mangrove Rail for the reasons outlined above. The species is largely restricted to Mangroves and using Clapper Rail would cause too much confusion.

Oscar Johnson
Madison, Indiana
 
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Richard Klim

-------------------------
I don't like California Rail for this species. As others have mentioned, the range extends far outside of California in northwest Mexico. Let's keep the name California for birds that are truly endemic to California, like California Gnatcatcher.
California Quail, California Condor, California Gull, California Scrub Jay and California Towhee are not endemic to California/Baja California (although the towhee almost qualifies!).
 

dacol

Well-known member
My preferences:
Elegant Rail (R. elegans)
Aztec Rail (R. tenuirostris)
Saltmarsh Rail (R. crepitans)
California Rail (R. obsoletus)
Mangrove Rail (R. longirostris)
 
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MichaelRetter

Michael L. P. Retter
Ryan, Andy, and all,
South American (which extend into AOU area, as they occur north to Honduras, according to voice recordings, by the way!) birds are strictly in mangroves, so Mangrove Rail makes far more sense for those birds.

Does this post suggest that Caribbean and Eastern North American birds will be maintained as conspecific by AOU? Vocally they are fairly distinct. I would think that those birds might warrant a split from crepitans somewhere down the line, as well!

Dane raises a very good point. There are also mangrove-resident Clapper Rails on the Yucatán peninsula (saturatus). I hope the study this is based on takes into account those birds, as well.
 

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