North Queensland Naturalist 47 (2017): 49-55
Clifford B. Frith
The recent use of the common name of Spotted Catbird for what was originally described only as Ailuroedus melanotis is incorrect from the historic, scientific, and vernacular name point of view. The literal translation of melanotis is "black-eared" and the scientific name A. melanotis was that logically applied when the species was described. It was then referred to as the Black-cheeked or Black-eared Catbird in foundation literature and the latter name persisted until changed without justification to Spotted Catbird. The species is extensively distributed across New Guinea, where it is called Black-eared Catbird, with but a tiny north-eastern Queensland distribution in Australia. Black-eared Catbird is more informative and helpful given that this species is no more spotted than other catbirds and that there is a White-eared Catbird A. buccoides in New Guinea. Black-eared Catbird was applied as the vernacular name for A. melanotis in recent authoritative literature about the bowerbird family, the Australasian avifauna and particularly New Guinea, and world bird listings, and should be used so long as the taxon is A. melanotis. A recent genetics-based study resulted in systematists elevating most catbird subspecies to species that are morphologically so similar as to be all-but unidentifiable in the field. The similarly genetics-based elevation of some bird of paradise subspecies results in species that appear identical in the wild. Perhaps there is a need to address the practicality of such species in view of their detrimental consequences for ornithology, bird watching, and field guides.