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Concerning the Name of the Sonora House Finch

A. J. Van Rossem
Publication Information
1 (January-February)
From Field and Study

Concerning the Name of the Sonora House Finch

Ornithologists in general, and those who are interested in variations of the House Finch in particular, will welcome Robert T. Moore’s paper entitled “Description of a new race of Carpodacus mexicanus which appeared in a recent number of the Condor (vol. 38, 1936, pp. 203-208). This paper outlines the transition from a relatively large, streaked, pale-colored race in the southwestern United States to a small, nearly unstreaked, red race which reaches its culmination in characters in Sinaloa.

The author decides that Ridgway’s old name Carpodacus mexicanus sonorimeis is not applicable to the Sinaloa birds, and he therefore makes a new one, Carpodacus mexicanus rhodopnus, with a range for the race restricted to that State. However, there is one element of nomenclature which Moore has completely overlooked. To be specific, his page-long analysis of the “type” of sonoriensis (a specimen of rather anomalous characters) is somewhat redundant in view of the fact that there is no holotype of that race. It is true that in the United States National Museum there is a specimen (no. 164324 Biol. Survey Coll.) marked as the type. But Ridgway named no type at the time the name was published and his series, therefore, constitute cotypes.

So far as can be determined by an analysis of Ridgway’s description (Birds of North and Middle America, vol. 1, 1901, p. 135) there were eighteen cotypes from “southern Sonora (north to Guaymas on the coast) and southwestern Chihuahua (Batopilas, etc.).” Specific localities mentioned are Batamotal, Guaymas, and Alamos in Sonora, and Batopilas in Chihuahua. The smaller size of the Chihuahua specimens is particularly mentioned. Under these circumstances the whole question of what name to apply to the Sinaloa population must be reopened on the basis of adequate series of specimens from localities represented by the original series of cotypes. If birds from any one of these localities are found to average closer in characters to “rhodopnus" than to frontalis, there is ample precedent for the establishing of a restricted type locality which will allow the preservation of an old name as a preferable alternative to the creation of a new one.

It is my emphatic opinion that the name sonoriensis will easily include rhodopnus. If a reviewer decides that sonoriensis is really a composite which includes two races, he has, of course, the privilege of burying it under frontalis or he may preserve it and bury rhodopnus. In any event the matter is still open for the action of a reviewer.

A. J. Van Rossem

Dickey Collections, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, September 23, 1936

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