Western/Mallee Whipbird & Schodde and Mason

Subject: Western/Mallee Whipbird & Schodde and Mason
From: "Dean Portelli" <>
Date: Fri, 02 Aug 2002 17:39:07 +1000
Thank you to both Michael and Rohan for their very very very rapid assistance, I got the reply while still logged onto the internet - now that's speedy service. (Now another request for more info on W/M Whipbirds - see below). While I concede that providing the results of more complex statistics or the results of statistical tests is not feasible in the publication by Schodde and Mason I am perplexed as to why sample sizes and to a lesser extent specimen identification numbers/locations are not provided (although with some taxa the sample sizes may be too great to report all the specimens used, in this case perhaps "type" specimens that represent the variation being discussed could have been provided). It certainly would have made the publication more robust, which in turn would in my opinion do something to lessen the controversy that it has stirred (although that is exactly what taxonomic classifications set out to do and achieve in every case!!!).

I extend a further request to B-A listers, I may be preparing a brief report for CALM in Western Australia on Western Whipbirds and Western Bristlebirds at 2PB in the near future, hence my request for info on Schodde and Mason's taxonomy, I am interested in any plumage descriptions (or anything else anyone cares to add - so little is known about this species!!) of birds seen at Two Peoples Bay/ManyPeaks NR/Waychinicup NR or even Stirlings (basically anywhere in SW WA) - I am aware there are a couple in the archives. These descriptions would compliment my own and of course full credit will be given to the people who made the sightings in the report. I am hoping to try and provide a better insight into whether the birds at 2PB (and neighbouring Waychinicup/ManyPeaks which most likely forms a single population although it is probably fragmented to some extent - However, Noisy Scrub-birds are able to move from 2PB to Manypeaks if they wanted to in fact the population is almost contiguous if it wasn't for the wildfire in December 2000 which wiped out many scrub-bird territories - anyway, the main point was that Whipbirds could conceivably disperse between the two areas and would thus be the same subspecies/species - I believe Frank O'Connor had an earlier posting questioning what the Waychinicup birds would be - Mallee or Western).
Any help anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Once again blown away by the quick response from Rohan and Michael - thanks guys!

Dean Portelli

From: Rohan Clarke <>
To: "" <>
Subject: RE: [BIRDING-AUS] Western/Mallee Whipbird & Schodde and Mason
Date: Fri, 2 Aug 2002 16:52:05 +1000

Hi Dean,
No sample sizes are given for Western Whipbird taxa. On p 6 of the book
under Materials it states 'most totals for species are listed under the
relevant species in the text, in the section Taxonomic circumscription. (I
presume totals = sample size) This is not the case for the Western Whipbird

As for the science...on page 10 it states 'We are all too aware that graphic
presentation of the results of analysis, in the form of data matrices,
diagrams  and statistical tests (e.g. analysis of variance) would help
readers and improve rigour. Preparing them, however proved complex, space
expensive and time consuming, leading us to the decision not to exclude them
but to postpone them for inclusion in future electronic up-dates of the

The bottom line is this is a very impressive review of Australian bird taxa
and the first complete review of passerines to sub-specific (or ultra taxa)
level since G. Matthews work many many years ago. The authors findings have
important implications for Australian ornithology. For example this is the
first real working list of Australian passerine sub-species (or ultra taxa)
for conservation purposes.  However, in the absence of lists of specimens
examined, the results of statistical analysis (which we are told were
undertaken) and many sample sizes it is extremely difficult for the
discerning reader to interpret many of their findings. Lets hope the
'science' is eventually published in electronic up-dates as suggested.


-----Original Message-----
From: Dean Portelli 
Sent: Friday, 2 August 2002 16:19
Subject: [BIRDING-AUS] Western/Mallee Whipbird & Schodde and Mason

Hi all,

I am hoping someone can help me with the descriptions of Mallee & Western
Whipbird in Schodde and Mason (1998) Directory of Australian Birds:
Passerines. I have photocopies of the relevant pages for both species but am

interested in the sample size that they used to assess plumage differences
between populations/sites. Nowhere in the text on these pages do they list
the number of specimens examined (except to say they have none from Two
Peoples!!) - I wonder if anyone who owns the book could tell me if the
sample size is listed anywhere else in the book (it will save me an hours
hike into my old uni's library!!). If the sample size is not quoted I find
this to be poor science, it is BASIC practice to quote sample sizes in any
study. As I suspect there are not many W/M Whipbird specimens in existence
given the elusive nature of the species, hence the sample size may have much

to do with how accurate the proposed taxonomy is.
I would greatly appreciate any assistance from anyone out there - even if it

is to tell me that they don't quote sample sizes!!

Many Thanks in Advance
Dean Portelli

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