Helmeted Friarbird races in NT

To: martin cachard <>, "" <>, birding-aus threads <>
Subject: Helmeted Friarbird races in NT
From: David James <>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2011 02:31:12 -0800 (PST)
Hi Martin, 

this is a good question, and I don't have an answer. On the IOC website the 
only footnote I found to the taxonomy of this group is as follows:

"Status of Philemon yorki uncertain whether endemic ne AU species 
or conspecific with Papuan Friarbird (Sibley and Monroe 1990, Boles and 
Christidis 2008, P.Gregory comments)."

That is not very informative. I interpret it that the many subspecies of the 
former Helmeted Friarbird were split into two species (Papuan and Helmeted) 
both with many subspecies, and whoever did that originally  did not look too 
closely at yorki. C&B did not have much to say. Schodde & Mason kept Helmeted 
and Papuan as 1 species, but with reservations. Driskell & Christidis (2004) 
did some mollecualr studies but did not find enough to change the prevailing 

This lack of clarity and consensus raises an important issue that I intend 
working to address. If we want to adopt an international checklist system (IOC 
or another) as the basis for an Australian checklist we should: 

1) follow that checklist system fully and not make various exceptions on a whim 
or preference (or else why use an international system?)
2) develop a system whereby there is official Australian input into the 
taxonomy and names of Australian birds (endemics and near endemics in 
particular)  adopted in the parent checklist, whilst adhering to the system 

I see it as a 'horse and cart' issue: firstly we must join a parent system, 
then develop an input process, then address things like  out-dated common names 
(Maned Duck for e.g.) and taxonomic anomalies like the friarbirds and 
Red-collared Lorikeet. The IOC have shown  potentially that they would be open 
to this sort of input and collaboration. However, it will take time and proceed 
step by step, if at all. Alas, such a process will not deliver taxonomic 
research that is aimed to resolve the most pressing or obscured issues in a 
systematic fashion. 

At least it seems that many on Birding-Aus are in favour of this path. 

David James, 


From: martin cachard <>
To: ; birding-aus threads <>; 
david james <> 
Sent: Saturday, 10 December 2011 2:14 AM
Subject: Helmeted Friarbird races in NT

Hi Russ & others
The sandstone bird (ammitophila) is fairly easy to see atop of Gunlom in Kakdu 
NP & I also had them in nearby Koolpin Gorge. I didn't see them at Nourlangie 
Rock to the north, but did see some at nearny Gubara. So I guess you could say 
that it is fairly widespread on the escarpment areas.
The coastal/mangrove bird (gordoni) I found to be quite common around Darwin at 
a great deal of sites. However, I wouldn't say that this bird is anywhere near 
as common as the Hornbill Friarbird (yorki) is around Cairns where I live.
I have a question though - why is it that the NE Qld bird yorki has been split 
as a full species, especially from the coastal NT gordoni? 
I am no taxonomist, but I would have thought that the escarpment frequenting 
ammitophila was more distinct when compared to both gordoni & the newly split 
yorki, which at least structurally to my eye, appear more closely related to 
one another...
Any thoughts anyone ...??
Martin Cachard,
0428 782 808


> From: 
> To: ; 
> Date: Sat, 10 Dec 2011 12:37:18 +1000
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Helmeted Friarbird races in NT
> David & birding-ausers,
>                                     Wanting to be absolutely clear about 
> what races of  Helmeted Friarbird are believed to occur in the NT under the 
> IOC classification.
>                            Am I right in thinking that Philemon buceroides 
> gordoni ( Matthew's Melville Island friarbird) is the more widespread across 
> the coastal Top End, and that P.b. ammitophila (? Sandstone Friarbird?) is 
> confined to sandstone escarpments? Are they the only two races in the NT? Am 
> I right in believing that the nominate race P. buceroides buceroides does 
> not appear on the Australian mainland.
>       Would be interested in peoples' views as to the relative abundance of 
> these two races in the NT. A thorough search of my records for two visits to 
> the Territory shows I've missed Helmeted Friarbird both times (along with 
> White-lined H/E, but at least I was actively looking for that and knew I 
> didn't have it!!)
>            Don't you just hate it when you've missed an airchair tick.
> Russ Lamb, Maleny, SEQ

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