Re: that 'splitters versus lumpers rubbish'

To: Rod Gardner <>
Subject: Re: that 'splitters versus lumpers rubbish'
From: David James <>
Date: Tue, 11 Aug 1998 19:19:25 +1000
Hi Rod and others,

I appreciate your comments. I've had a  grumpy week or so and flown off the
handle once or twice, (as those that owe me money can atest), and I was
concerned that my comments may have sounded grumpy. 

Firstly let me be clear that I don't necessarily disagree with the
"interim" taxonomy, just the way it is being pushed. If you read the
Discussion section of Chritidis & Boles (1994; the RAOU Checklist), you'll
find that it assesses all the arguments put forward in the literature for
changes to taxonomy (since the last checklist in 1975) and rejects or
accepts them on their merits. C&B set what I beleive is an excellent
standard (compared to say the NZ checklist of 1990 where a committee of
"experts" decided on their favourite choices). The C&B proccess one that an
unpublished taxonomy will be a long-time navigating.   

I agree entirely with your argument that birders don't pay much attention
until something is called a species. The distrbution of pardalotes is
probably not as well known by the general birding community as it was
thirty years ago! However, I think that impavida (Cambell Island
Black-browed albatrosses) have been logged by some seabirders off Sydney,
the Gong, Portland and Port Macdonnell since the earliest days of organised
trips (in the late seventies  at least for Sydney, with the publication of
Harper & Kinsky 1977 Southern Albatrosses and Petrels). Likewise for
salvini and eremita (Bounty Is. and Chatham Is. Shy Albatrosses
respectively), nominate chrysogaster (Atlantic Ocean Yellow Nosed
Albatross), and the 2 species/subspecies of Royal Aalbatross. The only
difference in recent reports is the identification to "species" of the
various forms in the "Wandering Albatross Complex". This seems to me a task
fraught with perils, although if the process leads to a better
understanding of how to identify which breeding populations individuals
originate from then great. I advocate identifying all birds to the highest
level possible, including sexing and ageing them wherever possible and

A few years ago Chris Pavey, John McKean and others took this argument to a
comical extreme in the long defunct newsletter Cosmic Flashes. If my memory
serves me correctly Pavey tried to work out how many forms of Pomerine
Jaeger he could tick (or McKean could tick) given that no two individuals
looked alike! 

More land acquisition would be a great thing but it won't stop albatrosses
from drowning by the boatloads on long-line hooks. It won't stop mining
companies polluting surface and ground waters, or the eutrophication of the
GBR from agricultural run-off.  These are burning issues that we can't
resolve on Birding-Aus. 

Back to albatross taxonomy: A certain New Zealand identitiy has been
pushing views like this on albatross taxonomy for decades, but never puts
the data out in the sunshine for all to see. Now comes a new way to get
your views accepted without publishing. Some people get their energy from
being mysterious I guess.


David James
PO BOX 5225
Townsville Mail Centre 4810

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