Kirwan, Guy M., Steinheimer, Frank D., Raposo, Marcos A. & Zimmer, Kevin J., 2014, Nomenclatural corrections, neotype designation and new subspecies description in the genus Suiriri (Aves: Passeriformes: Tyrannidae), Zootaxa 3784 (3), pp. 224-240: 235-238

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Bahia Suiriri  , Suiriri suiriri bahiae ( Berlepsch, 1893) 

Valid original name. Empidagra bahiae Berlepsch, 1893: 12  6. The translation of the full description is: ‘[page 150] 223 (28). Elainea affinis Burm. A  fairly common resident bird in the cerrados around Lagoa Santa; I found it there as well as further north near Curvelo, and Burmeister likewise obtained it near the first of these towns. Lund has in his notes remarked that he first saw this bird near Aldea da Estiva in southwestern Minas, between the rivers Rio das Velhas and Paranahyba [Paranaíba] and from there everywhere on the road to Paracatú; it is thus commonly distributed everywhere in the campos in this province, and still occurs in São Paulo, from where Natterer has brought it home. [page 151] In the living bird the iris is brown, bill black and feet mauve. There is no sexual dimorphism. Among the available specimens one has a longer bill and shorter wingtip than the rest, as the following measurements will reveal. [table of measurements]. As one may see, the variation in measurements is independent of sex, and is so prominent that it might raise suspicion about a species difference; but it has not been possible to detect other difference between the long-billed male and the other specimens. In size, colour and relative length of the primaries it resembles the others and both forms have been found at the same place simultaneously. Since, in addition, we have to do with a single such specimen, and as I even do not have many (4) specimens of the short-billed form, I now prefer to regard them as representing the same species. This Elainea  is truly one of the most easily recognizable and most peculiarly coloured species; I know no other, with which it could be confused, and one may therefore rightly wonder, why Lund has not given it the name, under which it has been described by Burmeister with reference to his [Lund’s] written notes **), but in reality Lund [page 152] did not name it like that [ affinis  ]; in his notes and on the labels attached to the collected specimens it carries the name “ Muscicapa jocosa  ”; how Burmeister could make this mistake I cannot tell, but the species has now in print received the name “ affinis  ”, and thus it must keep this; nevertheless, it would have been most correct to regard this name as given by Lund. ’

Type locality. ‘Bahia, Brasil’.

Comments. In describing his new species, Berlepsch (1893) singularly avoided differentiating it from the obviously very closely related S. s. affinis  (burmeisteri herein), concentrating on the obvious differences from S. s. suiriri  . Indeed, Berlepsch opens his brief description with the speculation that his name might be synonymous with Burmeister’s. According to Cory and Hellmayr (1927: 445) the type (which Hellmayr had examined) was a trade skin; many such specimens were labelled ‘Bahia’ and this may not be indicative of its true provenance. Nevertheless, Cory and Hellmayr (1927) considered the taxon’s range to be the campos of eastern Bahia (at Joazeiro [Juazeiro], Rio São Francisco; and Rio do Peixe, near Queimadas), based on other material examined by them, and diagnosed bahiae  thus:

“Similar to S. a. affinis  [i.e. burmeisteri], but upper tail-coverts dark hair brown like the tail; rectrices without any yellowish at the base and without the pale brownish apical band. Wing (male) 85, (female) 74–79; tail 74, (female) 67–71; bill 12–13 [all measurements in mm].”

Subspecies bahiae  has been widely maintained, despite its relatively weak diagnosis, most recently, for example, by Ridgely and Tudor (1994), who characterised it as having the “rump and base of tail brownish, not paler”, and Fitzpatrick (2004), who stated “very similar to previous [ affinis  = burmeisteri], but rump and tail base brownish, not pale”. In contrast, Zimmer et al. (2001) in differentiating their islerorum  (= affinis sensu Burmeister  ) noted the greener mantle of bahiae  , the greater contrast between the greyish crown / nape versus greenish upperparts of bahiae  (whereas this contrast is much reduced in affinis  and burmeisteri) and suggested that the rump and tail base are merely less contrastingly pale in bahiae  . In their detailed vocal study, bahiae  appears to be identical to what they treated as affinis  . Perhaps unsurprisingly, modern statements concerning the range of bahiae  are generally vague and sometimes at least partially contradictory: Ridgely and Tudor (1994) considered it to be found in northeast Brazil “east to S. Piauí” (presumably a lapsus for “west to…”), whereas Fitzpatrick (2004) regarded bahiae  as occurring solely in the states of Paraíba, Pernambuco and northeast Bahia.

The only significant commentator to query the validity of bahiae  has been Hayes (2001), who suggested that its intermediate size and plumage  variability—he assigned two white-bellied specimens from Piauí in AMNH (the subject of some discussion in the literature: see Ridgely and Tudor 1994, and under ongoing study by MAR and GMK) to bahiae  —resemble the hybrid affinis  × suiriri  specimens from Paraguay first identified by Zimmer (1955) and therefore argue for bahiae  also representing a hybrid swarm. Furthermore, Hayes (2001: 464) considered two of the specimens assigned to bahiae  by Cory and Hellmayr (1927), namely MZUSP 7653 and 7809 from the Rio do Peixe, Bahia, two of those listed as bahiae  by Zimmer et al. (2001) — LACM 37067–37068 from Ibipetuba, Bahia—and others from Bahia and Paraíba listed by Pinto and Camargo (1961) to be referable to affinis  (= burmeisteri), based on their being pale-rumped.

Nevertheless, as noted by Hayes (2001), alternative hypotheses for the evolutionary history of bahiae  cannot yet be eliminated and, in particular, the white-bellied specimens from Piauí ( AMNH 243916 and 243917) and another of similar morphology from Pirapora, Minas Gerais ( MZUSP 8418)—the latter not examined by us but identified as bahiae  by Hayes (2001) —require further study.

Neotype designation. Because (1) bahiae  has been almost universally treated as a valid taxon in all literature since its description; (2) its type is apparently lost; and (3) its taxonomy requires renewed investigation, specifically the questions posed by the white-bellied specimens generally assigned to this taxon by, among others, Zimmer (1955) and Hayes (2001), we elect to designate a neotype to clearly identify the taxon concerned objectively for future research. It is clear from Berlepsch’s (1893) original description and Cory and Hellmayr’s (1927) discussion of the type (which Hellmayr examined personally) that the specimen was yellow-bellied, not white, and came from Berlepsch’s own collection. All available evidence indicates that the type of bahiae  is now lost: it is no longer present in the Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Frankfurt am Main ( SMF, Germany) and cannot be found at AMNH, where some of Berlepsch’s material went via E. Naumburg at the time the Count’s material was sold to the Frankfurt museum. Our wide enquiries and searches of other museums (e.g., ZMB, NMW and BMNH, three museums with which Berlepsch is known to have exchanged material) have failed to locate it. Berlepsch also sent material to his friend Władysław Taczanowski, whose collection is in the Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw; Mlíkovský (2009) thoroughly analysed types of South American birds held therein, but did not find that of S. s. bahiae  . The most parsimonious conclusion at present is that the specimen was among those lost when one of the seven buildings that housed the SMF collection during World War II was destroyed by an Allied bomb (G. Mayr in litt., 2012).

We select the following specimen to serve as a neotype: Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, USA ( FMNH 64119), female collected by R. H. Becker at the Rio do Peixe (a small tributary of the upper Rio Iapicuru), near Queimadas (10 o 58 ’S, 39 o 38 ’W), northeastern Bahia state, northeast Brazil, on 8 December 1913 ( Figs. 7–9View FIGURES 7 – 9). This specimen was identified as being of this taxon by Hellmayr (Cory and Hellmayr 1927), the only ornithologist other than Berlepsch to have seen and published on the original type of bahiae  , while its identity was confirmed by Zimmer et al. (2001) and has not been questioned, e.g. by Hayes (2001). It presents all of the essential characters associated with bahiae  , based on the type description and subsequent remarks in the literature (especially those of Cory and Hellmayr 1927 and Zimmer et al. 2001), namely yellow belly, noticeably green mantle and upperparts, contrasting markedly with grey of nape and crown, and dull rump and uppertail-coverts, more concolorous with the back and tail, rather than obviously much paler than the surrounding plumage  tracts. As noted by Zimmer et al. (2001), the voice of bahiae  appears identical to that of affinis  (= burmeisteri); therefore, this factor does not preclude selection of a neotype for which no vocal data are available. Furthermore, FMNH 64119 is topotypical in being from eastern Bahia. Designation of this specimen as the neotype of S. s. bahiae  therefore fulfils all qualifying conditions of Art. 75 and 76.1 of the Code ( ICZN 1999).

Range. Given the confusion in the literature alluded to above, we recommend that the range of bahiae  be circumscribed as follows, based on records (sight, voice recordings and specimens) of yellow-bellied birds mentioned in the literature ( Cory and Hellmayr 1927, Zimmer 1955, Hayes 2001, Zimmer et al. 2001). In the south it occurs in northern Minas Gerais, 20 km south of Carinhanha in neighbouring Bahia (14 o 17 ’S, 43 o 47 ’W), thence north through eastern and central Bahia (e.g. at Maracás, ca. 13 ° 26 ’S, 40 ° 25 ’W; MN 49492), to eastern Pernambuco, 15 km north of Petrolina (09o 24 ’S, 40 o 30 ’W), Lagoa Grande (08º 59 ’S, 40 º 16 ’W), and Belo Jardim (08o 20 ’S, 36 o 26 ’W), and in Piauí, at Santo Antonio de Gibues (09o 50 ’S, 45 o 21 ’W), Belo Horizonte (ca. 0 6 o 00’S, 43 o00’W) and Teresina (05o05’S, 42 o 49 ’W), with a possible specimen record ( AMNH 243913) from Maranhão, at the mouth of the Rio das Balsas (07o 14 ’S, 44 o 33 ’W), identified by M. LeCroy (in litt., 2013).


American Museum of Natural History


Grasslands Rhizobium Collection


Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de Sao Paulo


Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County


Forschungsinstitut und Natur-Museum Senckenberg


Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (Zoological Collections)


Naturhistorisches Museum, Wien


Field Museum of Natural History