NABA Checklist

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at
Fri Jun 18 05:33:15 EDT 1999

I tend to agree with Mike Quinn regarding the NABA Checklist as a 
standard for North American butterflies.  I don't agree with every 
choice, but most are satisfactory (or at least inoffensive).  (I need to 
make a disclaimer. I am a former NABA chapter president and also a 
former systematist (avian). 

It might help if people realized that the NABA Checklist Committee was: 
Brian Cassie, Jeffrey Glassberg, Paul Opler, Robert Robbins, and Guy 
Tudor. Paul was (I believe) president of the Lep Soc at the time he 
served on the committee. Rob Robbins is the Lep curator at the 
Smithsonian.  I know from personal conversations that the others are 
well-versed in the scientific names of the butterflies and are 
professionals in popularizing natural history. 

The NABA Checklist outlines in some details the methodology used to 
arrive at the names, and for many taxa there is a whole paragraph on 
why one name was chosen over others. Their negotiated approach is 
similar to the approach used by the American Birding Association AND the 
American Ornithologists' Union to standardize bird names. 

The checklist was a reasonable sequel to Miller's fascinating compendium 
of the Common Names of Butterflies (up to 10 for some species) gleaned 
from an extensive review of publications. 

We opted to use the NABA names in our book on Butteflies of New Jersey, 
although we balked at the SOUTHERN HAIRSTREAK a consequence of lumping 
Satyrium ontario (formerly called the Northern Hairstreak) which DOES 
occur in NJ with S. favonius (Southern Hairstreak) which does NOT occur 
here.  (By the way these are probably better known as Fixsenia spp). 
Although the scientific name favonius had precedence, the precedence 
criterion does not apply to vernacular names. S.ontario has a much more 
extensive range so more people were familiar with the Northern than the 
Southern (hence more people inconvenienced by the name change).  I found 
it particularly difficult to accept the name Southern Hairstreak after 
rejecting records of favonius from NJ.  However, I confess to being 
unable to find a more suitable vernacular name.  Since favonius is named 
after "western spring wind" I wonder if Spring Wind Hairstreak might be 
more appropriate (or maybe Breezy Hairstreak??). 
	We compromised and listed it as "Southern or Northern 
Hairstreak".  Compromises usually leave no one happy. 
	We also grudglingly acceeded to standardization by adopting 
Juniper Hairstreak for Callophrys (formerly Mitroura) gryneus when the 
various western relatives (Callophrys siva) were lumped with it. If 
gryneus remains the species name, why not retain Olive as the vernacular 
name (as was done with the Southern/Northern). It was explained to me 
that although "Olive" is widely used in the East,  Siva and Juniper are 
widely used for different populations of C. siva. In this case, all of 
the forms feed on Juniper, but not all are olive or greenish, hence 
Juniper was a better discriptor of the lumped taxon.  That seemed 
sensible if not entirely palatable, and we followed it reluctantly in 
our book---if you're going to have a standard you have to HAVE a 
standard. However, in common New Jersey field parlance, most people 
still call it Olive Hairstreak.   
	A good feature of the checklist is that recently lumped or 
well-marked forms, are listed. This is a reasonable anticipation that 
they may be split in the future. On the other hand, this could have been 
carried to an extreme considering the extensive lumping that has gone on 
in some groups (e.g., fritillaries). 

Mike Gochfeld

More information about the Leps-l mailing list