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Why do we call it "Pyrrhuloxia"? (1 Viewer)

raymie

Well-known member
United States
I know that Pyrrhuloxia was once the genus name for the bird we call by the same name today, but why did we keep using this as the common name even after the species was moved to Cardinalis? Why was it even used as the common name in the first place when Desert Cardinal is right there?
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
It's a portmanteau of Pyrrhula (Bullfinch) and Loxia (Crossbill). Why the name goes on being used? You'd need to ask the Powers that Be at the AOU! I guess they think its a fun name for a fun bird?
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
Or a simple case of "if it aint broke, don't fix it". Why change both common and scientific names and cause complete disruption of history when you can get away with only changing one of them?

Niels
 

raymie

Well-known member
United States
Note that I don't think Pyrrhuloxia is a bad name nor do I think it should be changed - I'm simply wonder what prompted its use in the first place.
 

RafaelMatias

Unknown member
Portugal
One first step to answer that question would be perhaps to know when was it first used as a vernacular name in literature. But before that we need to know when the genus name was first introduced.
This species was first described as Cardinalis sinuatus by Bonaparte in 1838 and Pyrrhuloxia was introduced as a genus name by the same Bonaparte in 1850 (here: Conspectus generum Avium) to include this single species (monospecific genus); the genus was described based on the shape of the bill, and from the OD (in Latin) we take that Pyrrhuloxia derivates from Pyrrhos (fire red, from the Greek: Πύρρος) and loxia (the next species included by the author was Loxia cardinalis, the Red Cardinal); the bill is not compared to that of Pyrrhula, but to that of the Parrotbills (Parodoxornis, an Asian genus, and that precedes Pyrrhuloxia in the same work) in having a sinuous cutting edge and very curved culmen (thus being "almost intermediate between Paradoxornis and the Red Cardinal").
It is safe to assume that no English common name existed for the species before 1838, and that Pyrrhuloxia was first used as a common name at some date after 1850. It could thus be interesting to investigate what common name (if any) was used between 1838 and 1850. Pyrrhuloxia was already in use as a common name in 1887, when Ridgway described 2 subspecies of it (Auk 4: 347): see here ; See also here (pages 382 and 443).
Your initial question is not yet answered but you're a step closer now, I think.
 
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dantheman

Bah humbug
Are there any/many other common species where the scientific is used as the vernacular? (I'm reading that this is probably what happened here?) In twitching circles I'm sure it happens as an alternative/reasonably well used sometimes for rare subspecies (even though I cant think of any examples right now!)
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Are there any/many other common species where the scientific is used as the vernacular? (I'm reading that this is probably what happened here?) In twitching circles I'm sure it happens as an alternative/reasonably well used sometimes for rare subspecies (even though I cant think of any examples right now!)
In English names, plenty in the tropics and South America - basically, areas where English didn't exist as a 2nd language until after the birds were described scientifically. Apalis, Cisticola, Leiothrix, Minla, Myzornis, Pitta, Prinia, Yuhina, etc., etc. Even more often in plants - Rhododendron, Laburnum, Hydrangea, etc.

For rare subspecies, again, quite a few - have you been to see that exilipes Arctic Redpoll near you yet? Or that coburni Redwing down from Iceland? Or the atlantis Yellow-legged Gull in Dorset?
 

mummymonkey

Well-known member
Supporter
United Kingdom
Are there any/many other common species where the scientific is used as the vernacular? (I'm reading that this is probably what happened here?) In twitching circles I'm sure it happens as an alternative/reasonably well used sometimes for rare subspecies (even though I cant think of any examples right now!)
Boa constrictor & T. rex come to mind.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Fossil species in general for that matter, other than some of the Pleistocene megafauna (Giant Ground Sloth, American Lion, etc)

IIRC, I think there are at babblers and some South American birds whose common names evoke genus names that are no longer in use
 

Fred Ruhe

Well-known member
Netherlands
Fossil species in general for that matter, other than some of the Pleistocene megafauna (Giant Ground Sloth, American Lion, etc)
Aepyornithiformes are called Elephant birds; Dromornithidae are called Mihirungs and there are more examples.

Fred
 
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Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
IIRC, I think there are at babblers and some South American birds whose common names evoke genus names that are no longer in use
Also some warblers, e.g. Brown Parisoma (formerly Parisoma lugens, then Sylvia lugens for a while, and now Curruca lugens). The English name much more stable than the scientific!
 

Xenospiza

Distracted
Supporter
Northern & Tropical Parula which are no longer Parula spring to mind! At least it still has the family named after it.
Phainopepla is another desert species without a real vernacular name (it could easily be called Black Silky-flycatcher).
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
No, because I don't twitch these days! (Petrol prices, broken scope, blah etc). Tristis Chiffchaff is probably approaching vernacular name status I guess. Parula and that one that is a pain to spell (or say perhaps, never had occasion to say it out loud before) good ones.

EDIT: This was meant to be quoting Nutcrackers post#7 above, but never happened ;-)
 

l_raty

laurent raty
This species was first described as Cardinalis sinuatus by Bonaparte in 1838 and Pyrrhuloxia was introduced as a genus name by the same Bonaparte in 1850 (here: Conspectus generum Avium) to include this single species (monospecific genus); the genus was described based on the shape of the bill, and from the OD (in Latin) we take that Pyrrhuloxia derivates from Pyrrhos (fire red, from the Greek: Πύρρος) and loxia (the next species included by the author was Loxia cardinalis, the Red Cardinal); the bill is not compared to that of Pyrrhula, but to that of the Parrotbills (Parodoxornis, an Asian genus, and that precedes Pyrrhuloxia in the same work) in having a sinuous cutting edge and very curved culmen (thus being "almost intermediate between Paradoxornis and the Red Cardinal").
So we have two candidate etymologies, then ?
Although it is true that the bird is nowhere directly compared to Pyrrhula, I don't really see anything in the original texts, either, suggesting that πυρρός ("fire red") played a direct role in the creation of this name. [πυρρός + loxia] would not account for the u in Pyrrhuloxia.
In the Conspectus, the subgenus Pyrrhuloxia is described as "Rubro colore tantum indutus !", which means something like "Only adorned with red colour !", and is obviously intended to have a counterpart in "Color (maris) ruberrimus !" ("Colour (of male) extremely red !"), which characterises subgenus Cardinalis. I.e., if anything, Pyrrhuloxia would seem to be described as not-very-red in comparison to its putative closest relative.

Incidentally, I would tend to take this name from Bonaparte & Schlegel's Monographie des Loxiens (https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/33463784 ; either 11 Nov 1850, or 9 Dec 1850, depending on whether one accepts [this] as conclusive evidence, or just [that]), not from the Conspectus (I known no evidence that allows dating this part to earlier than 31 Dec 1850; early 1851 is far from excluded, actually).
Two candidate ODs as well, thus.
 
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Paul Clapham

Well-known member
There's a lot of birds named "Sibia" in English -- they are mostly in the genus Heterophasia. There is also a genus Sibia but none of the birds in it are named "Sibia" in English.
 

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