Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged HawkA detailed chronology of the nomenclature of Broad-winged Hawk has been provided by Frank L. Burns in his ‘A Monograph of the Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)’, published in the Wilson Bulletin, 23 (1911), 143–320. Under ‘Synonymy’, Burns first describes the various binomials used historically for Broad-winged Hawk, and subsequently lists all the publications related to them, a monumental list.

Here follows a summary of the chronology.

It all starts in 1812. Scottish ornithologist Alexander Wilson was the first to describe and illustrate Broad-winged Hawk in his American Ornithology (Philadelphia, PA: Bradford and Inskeep, 1812), vi, 92–94, as Falco pennsylvanicus – for Pensylvania. Sadly Wilson did not have the chance to correct a naming error (he passed away in August 1813): he had already assigned Falco pennsylvanicus to a description of a specimen of what was then called Slate-colored Hawk (Accipiter velox (obsolete) = Rapid Hawk, from Latin velox = rapid, quick, and Latin accipiter = hawk, now Sharp-shinned Hawk, Buteogallus schistaceus = Slate-grey Chicken Buzzard, from Latin gallus = fowl, and Late Latin schistaceus = slate-grey). However, it seems that Wilson had understood his error and had left it with his friend and successor of the American Ornithology series of books, ornithologist George Ord, to be changed to Falco latissimus (which would be Broadest Hawk as Latin latissimus = broadest, from latus = broad) in an amended reprint of vol. vi (1824).

Over a short time period, a number of ornithologists changed and respecified the binomial of what is now called Broad-winged Hawk.

  • 1815 – American ornithologist George Ord mentions Falco latissimus in the list in his Zoology of North America, in William Guthrie, A New Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar (2nd Am. edn., Philadelphia, PA: Johnson and Warner, 1815), ii, 315, honouring Wilson’s request (above), though not referring to the latter’s description, effectively rendering the excercise obsolete.
  • 1823 – French ornithologist Louis Pierre Vieillot describes in Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre‘s Tableau encyclopédique et méthodique des trois règnes de la nature. Ornithologie, ed. L.P. Vieillot (Paris: Agasse, 1823), iii, 1273–1274, as Sparvius platypterus = Broad-winged Sparrowhawk from Med. Latin sparverius = sparrowhawk, Greek πλατυς, platus = broad, and Greek suffix -πτερος, -pteros = -winged – protonym.
  • 1824 – French ornithologist Charles Bonaparte adds more confusion to Wilson’s error in his ‘Observations on the Nomenclature of Wilson’s Ornithology‘, Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 3 (1824), 348, by acknowledging Wilson’s error, proposing his own epithet Falco wilsonii (in honour of Wilson), subsequently realizing that Ord was reprinting American Ornithology vol. vi at about the same time, adding a note acknowledging Ord’s revision and endorsing Falco latissimus.
  • 1827 – Falco pensylvanicus [sic] is listed by Charles L. Bonaparte in his ‘Catalogue of the Birds of the United States’, Contributions of the Maclurian Lyceum to the Arts and Sciences, 1 (1827), 10 – the name is an error as the reference is to Wilson who named it Falco pennsylvanicus.
  • 1828 – In the second edition of Alexander Wilson‘s American Ornithology, ed. G. Ord (2nd edn., New York: Collins and Philadelphia, PA: Harrison Hall, 1828), i, 92–94, George Ord added a note to resolve the issue around Falco pennsylvanicus raised by Wilson’s duplication: should Slate-colored Hawk (Wilson’s first use of Falco pennsylvanicus) and what was then Sharp-shinned Hawk (the now obsolete Accipiter velox) turn out to be one species, then Falco pennsylvanicus should be assigned to Broad-winged Hawk.
  • 1828 – French ornithologist Charles Bonaparte describes Falco pennsylvanicus and places it in the subgenus Astur (= Hawk, from Latin astur, asturis = hawk), effectively naming it Astur pennsylvanicus (= Pennsylvania Hawk) in his ‘The Genera of North American Birds, and a Synopsis of the Species Found within the Territory of the United States, Systematically Arranged in Orders and Families’, Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York, 2 (1828), 29.
  • 1832 – Scottish naturalist William Jardine in the 1832 edition of Alexander Wilson‘s American Ornithology, ed. W. Jardine (London: Whittaker, Treacher, & Arnot and Edinburgh: Stirling & Kenney, 1832), ii, 294–295, added his epithet to the list as Astur? latissimus, thus taking account of both Bonaparte’s genus Astur and Ord’s specific latissimus.
  • Bonaparte took another step towards classifying the species by listing it as Buteo pennsylvanicus in his A Geographical and Comparative List of the Birds of Europe and North America (London: John Van Voorst, 1838), 3 – placing the species in Buteo for the first time.
  • 1847 – German naturalist Johann Jakob Kaup in his ‘Monographien der Genera der Falconidae’, Isis von Oken, 1847, 329–330, describes the species as Buteo wilsonii while ascribing it to Bonaparte, whereas he used this particular epithet for the first time.
  • 1850 – In trying to make sense of the species German naturalist Johann Jakob Kaup in his ‘Monograph of the Falconidae’, in W. Jardine (ed.) Contributions to Ornithology (Edinburgh: W.H. Lizars and London: Reeve, Benham & Reeve, 1850), 75–76, briefly describes Pœcilopteris wilsonii = Variegated Hawk – from Greek ποικιλος poikilos = variegated, spotted, and Greek πτερνις pternis = hawk.
  • Also in 1850, Spanish naturalist Juan Lembeye in his Aves de la Isla de Cuba (Habana: Imprenta del tiempo, 1850), 19, describes Buteo latissimus.

In 1901, American ornithologist Walter Faxon writes a letter to the editors of the Auk, 18 (1901), 216–18, pointing out that in 1823 Vieillot had already provided the specific Sparvius platypterus, providing the protonym. Faxon’s fascinating letter explicates how the naming of a species has been confused by the many editions of one book, Wilson’s American Ornithology.