Anyone who has birded much in South America will be familiar with what I like to call “field guide taxonomy”. Many authors of South American field guides often make taxonomic decisions not yet accepted by “official” checklists such as the SACC, Clements, or the IOC. Often these are splits and lumps that are obvious and will doubtless be supported with future research, but just as often they are made with very little information justifying the split.
One such split is that of Buffy Tuftedcheek in Ridgley & Greenfield’s Birds of Ecuador. They support their split soley on range and plumage, and don’t even mention vocalizations: “P. johnsoni (Pacific Tuftedcheek) of western Colombia and western Ecuador is regarded as a monotypic species separate from P. lawrencii (Buffy Tuftedcheek) of Costa Rica and western Panama, based on its very different distribution and distinct plumage differences.”
Recently, on a trip to Costa Rica, I was able to record the song of nominate Buffy Tuftedcheek. Since I had been unable to find any cuts of this vocalization prior to my trip, I was completely unprepared for how different it sounded from Pacific Tuftedcheek (which I am very familiar with from living in Ecuador). I’ve posted a few cuts I got in Costa Rica on xeno-canto, and written a feature comparing them with both Pacific and Streaked Tuftedcheek (which some people consider conspecific with Buffy Tuftedcheek, and which sounds far more like nominate Buffy than either one sounds like Pacific).
During the course of my research, I also stumbled upon some interesting variation in the songs of the widespread Streaked Tuftedcheek. Unfortunately there are far too few samples to get a handle on this variation, but I’m just itching to get my hands on some more cuts to see what is really going on… You can read all about it here.
Finally, if any of you have ANY recordings of any tuftedcheeks, I would encourage you to upload them…sample sizes are depressingly small at the moment.