[OB] Bronze-Cuckoos

To: 'Birding-aus' <>, John Penhallurick <>
Subject: [OB] Bronze-Cuckoos
From: Frank Rheindt <>
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2011 06:30:30 -0700 (PDT)
Dear all,

In reply to Dr. Penhallurick's request on bronze-cuckoo taxonomy:

Sorenson & Payne's tree chapter (in Payne 2005) depicts Chalcites and 
Chrysococcyx as one monophyletic group, which renders any decision as to 
generic boundaries subjective. With all probability, both treatments (a large 
Chrysococcyx or a division into two) are correct and merely depend on one's 
preference for genus size.

However, even though the branch lengths for both groups are pretty deep in that 
tree, the branch support values are quite low, and the assumption of monophyly 
of each group is thus not strong. In our deliberations about how to treat these 
taxa for an upcoming book project, we therefore decided to play it safe and go 
with an expanded Chrysococcyx. I believe the IOC Checklist leadership decided 
to follow our judgment when this issue was last discussed (although I can't be 
sure if they have meanwhile changed their treatment).

As for the minutillus complex, the amount of specimens of intermediate plumage 
coloration is absolutely staggering if one goes by Payne's (2005) detailed 
inspection of museum material, even in such well-defined taxa as crassirostris 
that are usually afforded species rank. Surely the situation must be more 
complex than hitherto assumed and has the potential of involving complicated 
introgression patterns, as attested to by Leo Joseph's paper on the three AUS 
taxa (Emu, in press). A study based solely on mtDNA (as in Sorenson & Payne) 
would probably tell us a limited part of the story. For this reason, we have 
decided in favor of a merger of all taxa into one polytpic species until more 
detailed molecular results are available.

Best wishes,
Frank Rheindt


Frank E. Rheindt, PhD

Harvard University

Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

MCZ, 5th Floor

26 Oxford St

Cambridge, MA 02138



--- On Thu, 31/3/11, John Penhallurick <> wrote:

From: John Penhallurick <>
Subject: [OB] Bronze-Cuckoos
To: "'Birding-aus'" <>
Cc:  "'EuroBirdNet'" <>, 
"'Edward Dickinson'" <>, "'Robert Payne'" 
<>, "Adam Riley" <>
Received: Thursday, 31 March, 2011, 5:37 PM

Hi friends,

While working through the Cuckoos on my website (
<>   ), I came to the Bronze-Cuckoos, and realized
that there was massive contradictions in recent authorities on how to treat
this group.

First, as regards the genera involved, I found that most recent authorities
assigned the Bronze-Cuckoos all to Chrysococcyx. This includes
Payne,2005,The Cuckoos, and Dickinson,2003,The Howard & Moore Complete
Checklist of the Birds of the World,3rd edn..p.210.

But Australian authorities, including Christidis and Boles, 2008,
Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds place the Australasian and
Southeast Asian taxa in Chalcites. There is a bad misunderstanding of the
Code in relation to this. 

Payne accepted the interpretation of Chalcites Lesson,1831 that its type was
determined by subsequent determination (Swain,1837,The natural history of
the birds of Western Africa), as Cuculus klaas an African species. But in
the ICZN Code Art.68 Type species fixed in the original publication,
includes 68.1 which established order of precedence in ways of fixation.
Firstly original designation; then monotypy; then absolute tautonymy; and
lastly Linnaean tautonymy. Designaton of any type by the original author has
priority over any subsequent designation.

Based on this; I think that absolute tautonymy established chalcites Ill. As
the type. So Peters was right to conclude that the type was Cuculus
chalcites Illiger = Cuculus plagosus Latham 1802, which is a race of Cuculus
lucidus J.F.Gmelin,1788, as Australasian species.

Secondly, the tree in the chapter by Sorenson & Payne, A Molecular genetic
Analysis, fig. 5.6,p.90 shows the two clades to share a common ancestor but
that the two clades separated millions of years ago. And Joseph,Wilke Z&
Alpers, Molecular Ecology (2002) 11, 829-837 and Christidis and Boles (2008)
recognised Chalcites as distinct from Chrysococcyx. As was done by Howard &
Moore,1994,A Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World,2nd ed.,p.116.


Beyond that, there is widespread disagreement as to what species to
recognise in Chalcites group, and indeed what subspecies to allocate to such

Payne,2005,The Cuckoos,pp.415 - 418 includes in Chrysococcyx [=Chalcites]
minutillus C.m.aheneus (Junge 1935); C.m.jungei (Stresemann, 1938);
C.m.rufomerus Hartert 1900; C.m.crassirotris Salvadori,1878, C.m.salvadorii
Hartert & Stresemann,1925. C.russatus Gould,1868, was included in
C.m.poecilurus (G.R.Gray, 1862).


Yet Parker,1981,Prolegomenon to further studies in the "Chrysococcyx
malayanus" group, Zoologische Mededeelingen Rijks Museum van Natuurlijke
historie,Leiden,187,3-54, recognised as subspecies of C.minutillus:
C.m.peninsularis (S.Parker,1981); C.m.albifrons (Junge 1938);C.m.cleis
(Parker 1981); C.m.minutillus, C.m.barnardi Mathews 1912.  He recognised
C.poecilurus as a distinct species. He reocgnised C.russatus aheneus,
C.r.jungei, C.r. misoriensis, and C.r.russatus.  He also recognised as
distinct species, C.rufomerus, "C.salvadorii" and C.crassirostris.

Howard & Moore,1994,2nd edition, largely followed Parker 1981, placing
aheneus,misoriensis,jungei with nominate russatus in russatus. Poecilurus
was still recognised as a distinct species. And C.crassirostris was regarded
as a distinct species. Note that Howard & Moore included nieuwenhuysi in
minutillus, although this has generally been lumped with nominate


Handbook of Australian,New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Vol.4,p. 745
assigned barnardi, albifrons, and peninsularis to minutillus; to russatus he
assigned aheneus, jungei, and misoriensis beside nominate russatus. It is
also plain that HANZAB recognises C.rufomerus, C.crassirostris and
C.ruficollis as extralimital good species.

Dickinson,2003,p.210 recognises C.crassirostis, with subspecies
C.c.salvadorii beside the nominate.


What are we to make of this confused mess?  It is a pity that Sorenson &
Payne (2005) did not include any of the problematic taxa in their genetic
analysis. I have requested Prof.Sorenson to send me his sequences for his
Chrysococcyx, so that I can reanalyse the data, but have had no reply from


I have to make some decision for at least the time being. Maybe somewhill do
a genetic analysis of all the problematic taxa.

What I have decided to do for the time being is to generally follow the
accounts in Parker (1981) and HANZAB plus Christidis and Boles 2008 to the
extent that they are relevant.  I know that all of these accounts have
studied extensive collections of specimens in reaching their conclusions.
Whereas the same cannot be said for Payne, Dickinson and several other

Please let me know what you think.



Dr John Penhallurick

86 Bingley Cres

Fraser A.C.T. 2615



Phone: Home (612) 62585428


Please visit my website:





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