More South West Adventures

To: "Frank O'Connor" <>, <>
Subject: More South West Adventures
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Mon, 08 Jul 2002 20:53:11 +1000
Hello Frank, Edwin and other taxonomists!

Frank, I don't deny that different calls don't qualify the splitting of species at the moment but I am wondering why. Excuse the rough definitions below, I haven't got time to check proper definitions at the moment.

After all, isn't the standard definition of a species - reproductively isolated populations? Therefore, if it is believed that two taxa overlap and don't interbreed or wouldn't interbreed if they did overlap then the taxa are different species. To carry this argument through, if two populations call differently to each other there would be every chance that they wouldn't respond to each other reproductively.

If the two calling populations are well separated it starts to become a bit of a problem, but what if two different calling populations abut. I guess that what is needed is knowledge of calls across the range of a species to see if the variation is clinal or sharp.

Any thoughts on this?


Mick Todd
Griffith, NSW

At 05:32 PM 7/07/02 +0800, Frank O'Connor wrote:
At 19:28 05/07/2002 +1000, Edwin Vella wrote:
For many, the Western Shrike-tit is regarded as a seperate species to the Eastern (Crested) Shrike-tit and according to one of the Taxonomy lists. I have the Western Shrike-tit firmly on my life list along with the Western Fieldwren (that is a different bird to the Rufous Fieldwren). Regarding the Western Shrike-tit, its call is "very" different to the Eastern Shrike-tit, I can't see anyway the populations can interbreed and there are plumage differences. It is a very good "tick" to get. There appears to be no agreed taxonomy and the current one is debatable! But ofcourse it is upto you and your opinion on how you treat this species.

There is an agreed taxonomy. The standard taxonomy is still Christidis & Boles published in 1994, and this is the list being used by Sean.

Schodde certainly separates Western Shrike-tit and Western Fieldwren. The former is probably fairly widely accepted. There is still a lot of debate about the Western Fieldwren. Ron Johnstone at the Museum of WA says that the crown of the fieldwren gets more rufous the further that you head north in WA. i.e. it is clinal and he doesn't agree that it is a separate species. My understanding is that Christidis (& Boles?) are updating their taxonomic list and that this will be published later this year.

I agree that the call of the Western Shrike-tit is different. But this is not sufficient to make it a separate species. The calls of Magpie-larks and Grey Shrike-thrush (to name two) vary greatly around Australia. The latter has different colorations also.

So certainly keep a record of the different sub species that you have seen, but in order to have a standard comparison, use Christidis & Boles (1994) until it has been updated. This is the list used for birders' totals posted on Tony Palliser's web site.

Frank O'Connor     Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694                Email : 

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