Orange-eyed Flycatcher Tolmomyias traylori
Version: 1.0 — Published March 1, 2012
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The Orange-eyed Flycatcher occupies river-edge forests in the western Amazon, a region that has been visited by collectors and ornithologists since the 19th century. A few specimens of this bird were collected during this period, with the earliest known specimen dating from 1867. Remarkably, however, this species was not recognized as distinct until the 1980s, and was not formally described until 1997. Schulenberg and Parker (1997) summarize this history:
"The remarkable story of the late Ted Parker's role in the discovery of a previously unrecognized species of tyrant flycatcher is by now a well-known part of field ornithologists' folklore. A detailed account has been published elsewhere (Stap 1990), and so only a synopsis of the story will be repeated here. On 14 June 1983, along the Río Napo in eastern Peru, Parker noticed two adult Tolmomyias feeding young out of the nest. According to his field notes, these birds had "... [a] pale eye, diff[erent] calls (taped); a bird I've never seen", and which at the time he was unable to identify beyond genus. Eight months later, in February 1984, the late John S. Dunning captured and photographed an unusual tyrannid at a site along the Amazon River, downstream from the bustling port of Iquitos. Parker again was not able to name the bird photographed by Dunning, but recognized it as matching the unidentified Tolmomyias that he had seen and taped the year before. Subsequently, specimens of this tyrannid were located, and it was determined that these represented a previously unknown species".
The new species was named in honor of the late Melvin A. Traylor, Jr., "in recognition of his outstanding contributions to ornithology. Although Mel's interests range widely, our own work in Neotropical ornithology benefitted in particular from his interest in, and revisions of, the tyrannid flycatchers, and from his collaboration with Raymond J. Paynter, Jr. in the production of a series of Neotropical gazetteers. As a sign of Mel's attention to detail and thoroughness, we also note that long ago he singled out as unusual the Field Museum's two specimens of the species that now bears his name".
Orange-eyed Flycatcher shares the same wing formula as members of the Yellow-olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) complex, and occupies a region of the western Amazon Basin in which no subspecies of sulphurescens occurs; consequently, traylori presumably is closely related to sulphurescens. Tolmomyias sulphurescens is a highly polytypic species, the subspecies of which differ substantially in plumage and in vocalizations, however, and so the relationships of all members of the sulphurescens-traylori group merit further investigation.