I've been a little bemused / confused by some of the comments about what
should or should not be on any particular list. So here's my 2c worth.
Lists are artificial, and are a human, certainly inaccurate, attempt to
describe what species occur in a particular area. In the case of the
Australian List, this is a particularly artificial area, consisting of
the continent and SOME surrounding islands, but not others.
Inaccurate? Of course, as it is impossible to record ALL the birds that
have visited the region we describe as 'Australia'. Firstly, there are
historical regions - we don't know all that was here before ABoriginal
settlement (40,000+ yrs ago??) or even what might have been missed as the
continent was opened up by European discovery. Secondly, it is a big
place, a remote place, and if foreign ships and light aircraft with
devious purposes can come and go unnoticed, then it is likely the odd
wader or passerine or other bird has slipped across the coastline.
Thirdly, how many of the people who might have seen an unusual visitor
would have the experience/knowledge/interest to identify it correctly?
This is probably the biggest margin for 'error' on the list - that is,
there have probably been many many sightings of undescribed species.
When we venture beyond birds, to marine organisms etc, the difficulty is
compunded by the fact that so much is yet to be described by science!
(There is an interesting article about the dearth of taxonomists in
So, the 'Australian List' is at best a collection of reports of birds
that have been seen (and verified, Tony!) within the boundaries of what
we call Australia. (It is interesting to speculate on what we have MISSED!)
I suppose that the importance of any Australian List must be determined
by the target audience. Who is it? I guess we'd have to include
Government and non-government conservation agencies, and anyone dealing
with them for development purposes. Naturalists, scientists,
birdwatchers (all the way from hard-core twitchers to those with a casual
interest in their environment) are also important. So, if we are
debating WHAT should go on the list, we need to consider all of these
groups and their various interests/concerns. It all becomes a bit complex...
I can't beleive that anyone would seriously advocate that someone remove
an extinct bird from their OWN list. If it was a bona fide 'tick' WHEN
it was seen, then it has to remain on that list. Take the Ostrich -
those who listed it did so under the rules of the time. If at some
future stage it is decided to split Ostriches, and that the local ones
are a separate species from those elsewhere (improbable of course), then
the list should reflect that taxonomic change. However, if Ostriches
become extinct in the wild in Australia, then the record MUST remain as
an historical record, but obviously one that cannot be repeated by others
in the future. The same goes for 'local' extinctions. Why should
someone who has only seen a Bustard near Geelong (if decades ago) not
count that species now because Bustards are locally extinct.
It all comes down to the fact that everyone will have his or her own
opinion on this, and because it is an artificial situation, no single
answer is sufficient for all situations. Perhaps we need a 'dynamic'
(changing in time) list. Who knows what is possible with Windows95 (ha!).
But maybe the concept of lists WILL have to change a little, one day?
By the way, all the discussion on this and similar matters will gointo
the archive, in a big file called list-criteria.txt and will take an
eternity to download :-)
Verbose Mode ONDate: Tue, 2 Jan 1996 22:30:03 +1100 (EST)