Hello Australia, is anybody there?
Since there's been no mail from Birding Aus for two days, how about
a bit of controversy to brighten things up. As I get near the end of what I
think might be the first ever bird list for Australasia, 'Anthus
novaeseelandiae' once again rears it's ugly head. Named first by Gmelin
last century and consequently lumped with 'Anthus richardi' (Vieillot) some
two? or three? decades ago.
As 'novaeseelandiae' takes priority (now where would these
taxonomists be without priority ? Well down the list?) as the nominate
race, Richard's Pipit became 'Anthus novaeseelandiae', which is quaint for
an African bird.
Because of the British influence on Australian birding at the
time, 'our' pipit got turned into one of 'theirs', but if the reccomended
English name change followed the scientific procedure, Richard's Pipit
would have become Australasian Pipit. As the species was found all over
Africa and across a good part of Asia at the time, that would have beeneven
You will notice that I've been writing in the past tense. Because I
think this may well be history.
Although as far as I know, nothing has been published regarding
re-splitting of the 'Anthus novaeseelandiae' comlex, it never-the-less has
been split by popular consent. Outside Australia that is.
I think that Sibley started the movement in 1987, and although he
isn't the be-all and end-all in taxonomy, his influence continues to be
enormous. He seems to have split Richard's back into it's previous species.
And more and more authors are following suit.
Newman's "Birds of Southern Africa" 1991, calls what was one of
Richard's sub-species, Grassveld Pipit,'Anthus cinnamomeus'. English
authors in an article on birds migrating up the East Asian coast past
Beidaihe refer to Richard's Pipit as "A. richardi of many recent authors",
in 'British Birds' vol 88, no 2. The equally influential American
Birding Assocn. magazine, "Birding", in an article last year on the same
subject, simply refers to Richard's Pipit, 'Anthus richardi'.
I make a point of showing my overseas clients the streaked flanks
of most of our local pipits, and telling them that this could be an extra
tick shortly. Ben King, in his "Birds of S.E.Asia" points out that the
"unstreaked flanks" of Richard's Pipit is a diagnostic feature, although I
notice other overseas illustrators give their birds some faint little
Maybe Charles Sibley will be proved right after all ?
That's enough in the meantime, to throw the cat among the pipits,
so I wish you all good birding for the rest of the Christmas break.
Andy @ snail mail box 7999 cairns 4870 or ph/fax 323387 for all