A quorum in the South American Classification Committee has been reached on the proposal to consider the Tapajos Hermit, Phaethornis aethopyga, as a valid species, separate from the Little Hermit. It appears that Vítor de Q. Piacentini has been working on this problem for some time. I didn’t know any of the history behind the confusion when I was a volunteer guide at Cristalino Jungle Lodge in northernmost Mato Grosso state, Brazil four years ago. The bird in the photo above got trapped in the Biblioteca there and later died. During my two months I recorded the bird on 22 days, so it’s quite common, but we all referred to it as “new hermit species”. I’ll be going back during August and September 2011 as a resident guide, and I look forward to seeing this bird and being able to give it a name to my clients.
A summary of the confusion explained:
“Zimmer (1950) described aethopyga as a new subspecies of the (then) broadly defined Phaethornis longuemareus group. Nobody ever studied its taxonomic status until the 1990’s, when Hinkelmann (1996) misinterpreted the plumage pattern of the 3 specimens available to him and proposed that aethopyga was a hybrid between P. rupurumii amazonicus and P. ruber.
“Given that it was treated either as a subspecies or a hybrid, it did not appear in SACC’s main list or in the Hybrid and Dubious Taxa list.”
The whole proposal and full citations to the literature can be read on the SACC website.