Re: Status of Seabirds in Australia

Subject: Re: Status of Seabirds in Australia
From: "Peter S. Lansley" <>
Date: Thu, 30 May 2002 18:18:34 +1000
Hi netters,
[non-seabird people be warned this will probably not interest you]

I feel I must add to the thread started by Mike Carter. I am currently writing summary texts for Species Profiles and Threats, hence aim to cover all relevant literature pertaining to these topics for the species I'm covering - mainly seabirds. Through this work, I had noticed an apparent discrepancy in the figures given by Baker et al. 2002 [Emu 102: 71-97] for Little Shearwater nominate form Puffinus assimilis assimilis. They give a figure of ca. 5000 breeding pairs, representing 50% of the world population. The problem is, where are the rest? Marchant and Higgins (1990) [i.e. HANZAB] states that nominate assimilis is endemic to Lord Howe and Norfolk groups (i.e. 100% of population of nominate assimiils breeds in Aust. territory). This taxonomy is followed in the forthcoming seabird atlas of south-east Australia by Tim Reid et al. It appears that Baker et al. are following the taxonomy used by Garnett & Crowley in their Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000 where the Kermadec Is birds (otherwise known as subspecies kermadecensis) are included in nominate assimilis. The problem with that is there are over 100,000 pairs of Little Shearwater breeding in the Kermadecs. Therefore Baker et al.'s figures on the percentage of world population are either wrong or at best misleading and confusing. Incidentally some in New Zealand have foreshadowed Little Shearwater to be split into at least 4 species (Paul Scofield pers. comm.).

This bring to mind the problem of Albatross taxonomy. I won't takes sides here, except to say that Baker et al. are apparently following the 'new' taxonomy espoused by Robertson & Nunn 1998, as modified by Croxall & Gales 1998 [Pp 13-19 and 46-65 respectively, in Robertson, G., & R. Gales (Eds). Albatross Biology and Conservation. Sydney: Surrey Beatty & Sons] . One problem is the Laysan Alb. should be Phoebastria according to the new taxonomy - Baker et al. have it as Diomedea. Furthermore one wonders why The Emu is adopting the (unconvincing to some?) new taxonomy in the absence of an updated checklist post-Christidis & Boles 1994? Isn't it about time this issue was thrashed out and incorporated into a new Austrailan bird checklist?

Finally, there are two references cited in Baker et al.'s Table 3 which are not found in the reference list: Serventy & Curry 1984 and Serventy 1967. Most frustrating when trying to verify a statement from its original source.

In summary, it is unfortunate that the errors so far pointed out in Baker et al.'s paper detract from what otherwise is a worthy contribution to the current state of play in conservation of Australian albatross and petrel populations.

Peter Lansley
Birds Australia
415 Riversdale Rd, Hawthorn East, 3123
ph: (03) 9882 2622, Fax: (03) 9882 2677


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