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ornithologist who does not blunder, the blunders of ornitho-



Ornithological Nomenclature. 431

legists being pretty much in the direct ratio of the amount of
work they do) , it seems to me impossible that a name can have
absolute definiteness without a reference to the person who
defined it. The name quoted, with the appendix, does not
become in any sense trinomial. It remains strictly binomial.
The authority is no part of the name, any more than the
reference to its origin, but is only quoted to give definition
to it, to ensure the greatest possible scientific precision, and as
a concession to the "humanity" of ornithologists, who might
otherwise "err" as to the species of bird first described under
the name.

Now let us take our " cases."

Saxicola stapazina, Dresser, Birds of Eur. pt. xxv.
Sterna hirundo, Dresser, Birds of Eur. pt. xii.
When Dresser transferred the name of the Black -throated
Chat to the Eared Chat, and that of the Common Tern to
the Arctic Tern, he placed future ornithologists upon the
horns of a dilemma. Thenceforth the binomial term of
Saxicola stapazina ceased to be a scientific term ; and to give
it the necessary precision to enable it to become scientific,
either the circuitous term Saxicola stapazina, Linn., fide
Dresser, or the equally objectionable term Saxicola stapazina,
Linn, nee Temm. &c., must be used. Ornithologists will not
easily forgive a writer who obliges them to reject a long familiar
name. I conceive that we have no alternative but to reject
these names altogether. To meet these cases I propose the
following rider to Rule 12 of the Stricklandian code :

"The object of all rules of scientific nomenclature
being to attain absolute precision, it is obvious that a
name which has been extensively applied to one species
ought not a under any circumstances, to be transferred to
any other species in the same genus. Where any reason-
able doubt attaches to the correctness of any identifica-
tion, the species in possession of the name should have the
benefit of the doubt, in order to avoid change. Where
no doubt whatever exists that a name ordinarily attri-
buted to one, properly belongs to another species of the



432 Mr. H. Seebohm on certain Points in

same genus, it must be discarded altogether, but under no
possible circumstance should it be transferred to another
species in the same genus a practice which cannot be
too strongly condemned, as entirely destroying the scien-
tific character of ornithological nomenclature."

Phylloscopus collibyta, Newton's ed. Yarr. Brit. B. i. p. 437 ;
Dresser, Birds of Eur. pt. Ixxiv.

It seems to me a matter of profound regret that an attempt
should have been made to ignore the name of Phylloscopus
rufus for the Chiffchaff. It is impossible to identify the Curruca
rufa of Brisson or "la petite Fauvette rousse" of Buffon
with any known bird. Daubenton's plate of (t la Eauvette
rousse " is equally unintelligible, though Newton and Dresser
accept it as a clear definition of the Whitethroat, for which
they consequently claim the name of Motacilla rufa of Bod-
daert. If the two birds had remained in the same genus it
would undoubtedly have been necessary to discard the name
altogether. Had Boddaerfs name been otherwise unob-
jectionable, it must have been rejected on the ground that
Sylvia rufa would perpetually be confounded with the Chiff-
chaff. On the other hand, Phylloscopus rufus can never be
confounded with the Whitethroat.

I therefore propose to ignore altogether the specific term
rufus until it is found attached to a bird which is clearly
defined, and to call the Chiff chaff Phylloscopus rufus (Bechst.),
since Bechstein was undoubtedly the first ornithologist who
clearly defined the species, To cover cases of this kind I pro-
pose to add a clause to Rule 12, to enact that names which
cannot be identified must be considered as not existing;
otherwise we shall have some ultra-conscientious ornitho-
logist giving a new name to Blyth's Heed Warbler on the
ground that it is not the Motacilla dumetorum of Linnaeus,
though no one can tell to which species of the genus Acro-
cephalus this name of Linnaeus was intended to apply.
The existence of a phantom Motacilla rufa of Boddaert, and
of an equally unsubstantial Motacilla rufa of Gmelin and
Latham, ought not, in my opinion, to bar the use of Sylvia



Ornithological Nomenclature. 433

rufa by Bechstein for a bird which that excellent field-natu-
ralist describes so accurately that no one can doubt for a
moment that he is describing the Chiffchaff. I therefore
propose the following rider to Rule 12 :

" Names accompanied by descriptions so imperfect as
to be incapable of identification with any known species,
must be consigned to the oblivion of prelinnsean names,
so that their existence shall be no bar to the adoption
of the same name when given by a later writer."
This rule will also apply to and provide for the following
case :

Acrocephalus aquaticus, Newton's ed. Yarr. Brit. B. i. p.
380; Dresser, Birds of Eur. pt. li.

The Aquatic Warbler has by no means a clear title to its
name. Scopoli's bird may have been either a Sedge-Warbler
or an Aquatic Warbler ; but his description is inconsistent
with either of them. Neither Gmelin nor Latham appear
to have known the bird, but to have simply copied Scopoli.
Bechstein, Meyer and Wolf, and Naumann were well ac-
quainted with the species, but identified it, probably incor-
rectly, with the Motacilla salicaria of Linnaeus, a name which
has been transferred from one species to another until it has
long ago ceased to have any definite meaning or any scien-
tific value. Temminck was the first writer to use the name
aquatica for a clearly defined species ; and since his name has
been in general use, and has not been extensively, if at all,
applied to any other species, we are, in my opinion, justified
in calling the Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus aquaticus
(Temm.), consigning the Motacilla aquatica of Gmelin and
the Sylvia aquatica of Latham to the Lethe of prelinnaean
oblivion.

Turdus dubiuSj Dresser, Birds of Eur. pt. Iviii.

The Thrush hitherto known as Turdus fuscatus of Pallas is
christened Turdus dubius by Dresser, because that writer has
"satisfied himself" that Bechstein's description of a Thrush
which was sent to him from Coburg refers to an immature ex-
ample of Pallas's bird. After carefully reading over the de-



434 Mr. H. Seebohm on certain Points in

scription, I can only come to the conclusion that Bechstein's
bird is a very doubtful one, but that, having regard to the
absence of any allusion to the chestnut on the wing-coverts,
and the positive statement that the under wing-coverts were
bright orange, the probabilities are that it was a Song-Thrush
in first plumage, which, in consequence of being kept in a cage,
retained much of the immature plumage after the first moult.
Whether this was the case or not ; whether it was an abnormal
variety of Turdus musicus, or of some other Thrush, I cannot
say ; but it seems to me a gross violation both of the spirit
and of the letter of the Stricklandian code to accept this as a
clear definition of the bird hitherto known as Turdus fuscatus,
and to attempt to supersede that name by Turdus dubius.

Acrocephalus arundinaceus, Newton, Ed. Yarr. B. i. p. 364 ;
Dresser, Birds of Eur. pt. Ixix.

When Meyer transferred the Great Sedge- Warbler to the
genus Acrocephalus from the genus Turdus, in which it was
placed by Linnaeus, and in which it was retained by Gmelin,
Bechstein, Meyer and Wolf (in their joint work), Temminck,
in his edition then published, and later by Vieillot, he found
that the specific name was already occupied by the Reed-
Warbler. His scientific instincts prevented him from creating
hopeless confusion by transferring the name of the Reed-
Warbler to the Great Sedge-Warbler, and he very judiciously
gave to the latter bird a specific name of his own, which,
among continental ornithologists, it has retained ever since.

Gray appears to have been the first ornithologist to intro-
duce confusion by applying the name of arundinacea to both
species ; but he got over the consequent difficulty by putting
them into different genera. Newton further complicated
matters by reuniting the genera, and retaining the name for
the larger species. This he was entitled to do under the
Stricklandian code, which makes no provision for cases of
this kind. His unfortunate, though legal, decision has been
indorsed by Harting, Blanford, Gurney, Dresser, and others,
until the name has ceased to have a definite meaning, and
must be rejected altogether, all Stricklandian rules or British-



Ornithological Nomenclature. 435

Association codes not withstanding, unless the study of orni-
thology is to be allowed to drift into a popular amusement,
in which scientific accuracy is of minor importance.

The name arundinaceus having ceased to be a scientific
term in the genus Acrocephalus, the strict letter of the law
requires us to adopt that ofjunco of Pallas. This appears to
me to be a case in which ornithological law may fairly be
overridden by ornithological equity. Pallas had no right to
substitute the prelinnsean name of junco for the Linnaean ,
name of arundinaceus , since he quotes the latter as a synonym,
and retains the species in the genus Turdus. I submit there-
fore that the Great Sedge-Warbler ought to be known by
its time-honoured name of Acrocephalus turdoides (Meyer) ;
and I propose to justify the proceeding by adding the follow-
ing rider to Rule 12 :

" Names which have been in general use for many
years, and which have been clearly defined, ought not
to be superseded by the discovery of earlier names, com-
paratively unknown, except in cases where the newly
discovered name accompanies the earliest clear definition
of the species."

Graculus graculus, Sharpe, Cat. of Birds, p. 146.

Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, Sharpe, Cat. of Birds, iii. p. 148.

Corone corone, Sharpe, Cat. of Birds, iii. p. 36.

Pica pica, Sharpe, Cat. of Birds, iii. p. 62.

It is a thousand pities that ornithologists did not retain
the excellent practice commenced by Brisson of giving to the
type of each genus the same specific and generic name. To
revert to the practice now would, I fear, involve too much
change in our nomenclature, though it would undoubtedly give
to it a system and simplicity which it does not at present
possess. But be this as it may, it is obviously absurd to apply
the system in a few isolated cases. In the original Strick-
landian code it was provided that wherever a specific name was
elevated to generic rank, a new specific name must be found.
At the Meeting of the British Association in 1865, this rule
was reversed, and it was enacted that the specific name so pro-



436 On certain Points in Ornithological Nomenclature.

moted must be reduced to the ranks, and a new generic name
must be found. This alteration in the rule still remains un-
rescinded. It was carried by a number of eminent ornitho-
logists; but I cannot learn that any one of them has had the
courage of his opinions ; and to this day it remains a dead
letter, to the standing disgrace of ornithological science. I
therefore venture to propose the following compromise :

" Specific names that have been elevated to generic

rank prior to the year 1817 shall be allowed to stand;

but where such changes have been made subsequent to

that date, the specific name shall be restored and another

generic name found. "

Hypolais languida, Dresser, Birds of Eur. pt.
This name stands as Hypolais languida of Hemprich and
Ehrenberg, in direct violation of the Stricklandian code, but
in accordance with the most approved ornithological judges'
law. In Ehrenberg's description no character whatever is
given by which the species may be distinguished from its near
allies. It was rejected for want of a clear definition until
Blanford and Dresser examined the type in the Berlin Mu-
seum. Cases of this kind are numerous ; and to provide for
them I propose the following rider to Rule 12 :

" Slight errors in a description may be condoned, or
omissions supplemented by reference to the type speci-
men, if such exist in any public museum. No type spe-
cimen shall, however, be allowed to give value to a name
where no description whatever has been published."
There are doubtless some other points which I have over-
looked. Perfection in ornithological, as well as in civil law,
can only be attained by slow degrees. Other cases, which
neither Strickland's code nor any codification of judges' law
have contemplated, will continually arise and have to be pro-
vided for. My object is not to strive after an impossible
perfection. Had it been so I should have delayed my paper
for some years. It seems to me that the most important
thing to be done is, without delay, to protest, in the name of
scientific accuracy and ornithological equity, against the



On Birds from the Solomon Islands and New Hebrides. 437

revolutionary attempts of Messrs. Newton, Sharpe, and
Dresser to corrupt the ornithological morality of the pre-
sent age.



XXX VIII. On a Collection of Birds from the Solomon Islands
and New Hebrides. By H. B. TRISTRAM, F.R.S.

(Plates XI., XII.)

I HAVE had placed in my hands for determination, by the
kindness of Vice-Admiral Sir Geo. H. Richards, K.C.B., a
small but very interesting collection of birds made by his
son, Lieut. Richards, R.N., at Makira Harbour, San Cris-
toval, Solomon Islands, between the 2.2nd August and 3rd
October in last year, consisting of thirty-three species. Of
these no less than twelve are, so far as I can ascertain, as
yet undescribed, while several of the others are of extreme
rarity in collections, some of them being not, as yet, known to
exist in any museum in this country. The fact of the whole
collection having been made in a limited area shows how much
yet remains to be done before the avifauna of this portion of
the Pacific can be looked upon as exhausted. The excep-
tional beauty of many of the new species, such as the Ceyx,
Charmosyna, and Ptilopus, renders their absence from pre-
vious collections from the Solomon Islands the more remark-
able. Either previous explorers have very cursorily skimmed
the island fauna, or the species must be extremely local.

1. ASTUR (UROSPIZA), sp. ?

An immature bird in first year's plumage. Very like the
young of A. approximans, but much smaller. It agrees
exactly in measurements with an adult specimen of A. tor-
quatus in my collection from the New Hebrides, and may
probably prove to be the young of that species.

The specimen is a male. Iris bright yellow ; feet orange.



s



2. HALIASTUII GIRRENERA (Vieill.).
Two specimens, adult.

SER. IV. VOL. III. 2 K



438 Canon Tristram on Birds from the

3. HALCYON SANCTA, Vig. & Horsf .
Appears to be very common.

4. HALCYON JULI^E, Reich.

One specimen, the most distinctly marked which I have
yet seen of this form, for I hesitate to assign specific value
to this bird. I have, however, never seen a bird more richly
coloured than this, which is evidently adult. The lores, fringe
of the collar, and the whole region behind the eye are dark
chestnut, with black ear-coverts, extending to the collar,
which is pale chestnut, as are the under wing- coverts, flanks,
abdomen, and under tail- coverts.

5. CEYX GENTIANA, sp. nov. (Plate XI.)

C. rostro nigro; capite nigro, ultramarino striato, macula inter
nares et oculos necnon macula postauriculari albis, dorso
medio et cauda azureo resplendentibus, utrinque ultra-
marino circumdatis ; alis ultramarino striatis, remigi-
bus atris : subtiis tota alba. Long. tot. 5'8, rostr. T8,
alse 2-5, caud. 1-25, tars. 0*35, dig. med. 0'6, dig. post. 0'2.
This lovely little Kingfisher bears a slight resemblance in
the distribution of its colours to Alcyone pusilla, but it is im-
possible to confound them. The three shades of brilliant
blue, the ultramarine spangles on the head and back of the
neck, and the spotless white of the whole under surface render
it one of the most chastely gorgeous of its family. It belongs
to the same group as Ceyx solitaria, Temm., hitherto the
only species known of black-billed Ceyx, but may be at once
distinguished by the pure white of its lower surface and its
considerably larger size. The iris is bluish black, and the
feet flesh-coloured.

I have named it gentiana, as combining the colours of
three species of that plant.

6. DENDROCHELIDON MYSTACEA (Less.).

7. COLLOCALIA LINCHI, Horsf. & Moore.

A single specimen, which I take to be of this species, is in
the collection. It agrees with the description, and is dis-
tinct from any of the dozen species before me ; but I have not
been able to compare it with a typical example of C. linchi.



Corrections of Synonymy in the Family Sylviidse. 273

The same observations as to the moulting of the wing-
feathers applies to this as to the preceding species.

357. QUERQUEDULA HOTTENTOTTA, Smith. Hottentot Teal.
Male and female, shot near Potchefstroom in the month of
November.

ANAS SPARSA, Smith. White-spotted Duck.

Male, shot 7th March. Total length 22 inches, bill 2J,
wing 10J, tarsus 2J, tail 5 ; weight 2 Ib. 8 oz. Irides
hazel ; bill, upper mandible slaty horn-colour, with a large
patch in the centre and also the tip black, under mandible
pale pink ; tarsi and feet dull orange-yellow, with the webs
and back parts dusky.

Female, shot 19th April. Total length 21 \ inches ; weight
2 Ib. 6 oz. Irides dusky brown ; bill, upper mandible slaty
blue, with tip and central patch black, under mandible pinkish;
tarsi and feet as in the male. The whole canal to the stomach
crammed with grass-seeds.

PHALACROCORAX AFRICANUS (Gin.). Long-tailed African
Cormorant.

Male, shot 26th July. Partially in nuptial dress. Irides
bright light crimson ; bill chrome-yellow, but light dusky
brown on the ridge, tip, and part of the lower mandible, the
latter being also more or less barred ; tarsi and feet black.
Remains of fish in the stomach.

These Cormorants are tolerably numerous about Potchef-
stroom, but appear to keep to themselves, for they fish and
move from place to place in a solitary manner, passing along
the river, generally high overhead, early in the morning to
their favourite pools, and returning pretty regularly in the
evening to where they sleep; they swim very low in the
water.



XXV. Various Corrections of Synonymy in the Family'
Sylviidse. By HENRY SEEBOHM.

IN preparing the synonymy of the fifth volume of the ' Cata-
logue of Birds in the British Museum/ I have been obliged to

SER. IV. VOL. IV, 17



274 Mr. H. Seebohm's Corrections of

disallow the claims of many species to be considered new.
These identifications with previously described species will
appear in their proper places in the synonymy of the various
birds treated of in the volume, but, from the nature of the
work, without note or comment. To my mind, whatever value
may attach to an opinion is increased at least tenfold by a
concise statement of the grounds upon which it is based, so
that the readers may be able to form an opinion of their own,
instead of accepting it on the authority of even the best
expert. Some of our most accurate writers on ornithology
have neglected this important point, partly perhaps from a
mistaken endeavour to be brief, and partly, it is to be feared,
from an unwillingness to commit themselves to a definite
line of argument, the accuracy of which might hereafter be
impeached. I have frequently been told, when asking for the
reason why an opinion in which I could not coincide was
expressed, that the writer had no doubt that he had excellent
reasons at the time for coming to the conclusions which he
recorded, but that now, after the lapse of some years, he was
not able to recall his former line of argument to memory.
Such replies are eminently unsatisfactory. The day in which
opinions were accepted solely on authority is past. Probably
we are in danger of rushing to the opposite extreme, and are
more inclined, in those cases where the evidence does not
satisfy our reason, to give the casting vote in favour of
doubt.

It appears to me that new material is so continually coming
forward, and old material is so frequently being raked up
from the nooks and corners where it has been lying hid, that
no ornithological opinion can be considered final, or even of
much value, unless accompanied by the statement of the facts
upon which it is based.

In addition to the " slaughter of the innocents/' which I

propose to justify, to the best of my ability, in the present

paper there are also numerous errors of identification to

correct, which also require some explanation more full than

s consistent with the plan of the ' Catalogue of Birds.'

Slcrocephalus arabicus, Heugl. On, N.O,-Afr, i. p. 289



Synonymy in the Family Sylviidae. 275

(1869). I have examined HeughVs type in the Senckenberg
Museum in Frankfort, and am unable to distinguish it from
A. turdoides (Meyer). The wing measures 3*48 inches, and
the second and third primaries are equal and longest.

Acrocephalus fulvolateralis, Sharpe, Layard's B. S. Afr.
p. 289 (1877). The type in the British Museum agrees in
all its dimensions and in its wing-formula with A. turdoides
(Meyer), of which there can be no doubt that it is an example
in autumn plumage. Through the kindness of Mr. Wardlaw
Ramsay I have been able to examine a copy of that rare work,
Naumann's ' Naturgeschichte der Land- und Wasser-Vogel
des nordlichen Deutschlands und angranzender Lander/ In
the "Nachtrag" to this work, vol. iv. p. 199, published in
1811, the genus Acrocephalus is carefully characterized, and
seven species are named and the specific characters enume-
rated. The first of these is Acrocephalus lacustris (p. 201),
which is identified with Turdus arundinaceus , Linn. The
term Acrocephalus arundinaceus having been so universally
applied to A. streperus (Vieill.), amongst others by Naumann,
on the page last quoted, the Great Sedge- Warbler will proba-
bly be best designated for the future as Acrocephalus lacus-
tris , Naum., a name which antedates A. turdoides (Meyer)
and is not antedated by A.junco (Pall.). For the informa-
tion of ornithologists anxious to distinguish themselves by
discovering forgotten names, I may state that there are no
Latin names of birds given in this rare work of Naumann's,
except in the genus Acrocephalus, beyond an occasional quo-
tation of Linnseus.

Locustellajaponica, Cassin, Proc. Ac. Sc. Phil. 1858, p. 194.
The type in the museum of the Academy of Natural Sciences
in Philadelphia is almost an exact duplicate of the type
of L. ochotensis (Midd.) in the St. Petersburg Museum,
the feathers of the upper parts showing traces only of darker
centres. The name must therefore sink into a synonym of
MiddendorfPs species.

Locustella minor, David et Oust. Ois. Chine, p. 250 (1877).
The type of this species is lost ; but T Abbe David assures me
that his name must be added to the synonyms of L. certhiola



276 Mr. H. Seebohm's Corrections of

(Pall.), of which he is now satisfied that his supposed new
species was a somewhat small example.

Lusciniopsis hendersoni, Cassin, Proc. Ac. Sc. Phil. 1858,
p. 194. This bird has been identified by Dresser and Hume
with the Turkestan and Indian species. I have carefully
examined the type in the Museum of the Academy of Natural
Sciences in Philadelphia, and find it to be an example of
Locustella minuta, Swinh., which I take to be only a form
of L. lanceolata (Temm.) . The Turkestan and Indian species
must therefore stand as L. straminea (Severtz.).

Arundinax davidiana, Verr. N . Arch. Mus. Bull. vi. p. 37
(1870). The type of this alleged species is in the Museum
of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, and is, in my opinion, a
specimen of Horornis fortipes, Hodgs., or, as I prefer to call
the bird, Cettia fortipes (Hodgs.). It is described, and not
badly figured, in David et Oustalet's Oiseaux de la Chine,
pi. 20. If the Formosan species, Horeites robustipes, Swinh.,
be, as I maintain, the same as the Himalayan bird, Abbe
David's examples from Chinese Thibet are specially interesting
as coming from an intermediate locality.

Horornis fulviventris, Hodgs. MS. Drawings (in the Brit.
Mus.) of Birds of Nepal, Passeres, pi. 63, no. 878 which
name was first published by Hodgson in Gray's Zool. Misc.
p. 82 (1844), and accompanied for the first time with a
description of the bird in an article contributed by Hodg-
son to the P. Z. S. 1845, p. 31 must sink into a synonym


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