Following the Pitta name change posting I have been delving into
Lynx’s “Birds of the World” in which the current IOC taxonomy is used.
These are a quite fantastic two volumes, particularly for those bird
when the travelling around the world. For instance we twitched the Big Island
of Hawaii recently,( in conjunction with a Conference of course). The available
books on Hawaiian birds are OK, but for an overview with pictures of the
surviving and extinct species and their distribution, BotW puts everything
The big revelation for out of touch Australian twitchers like us is
the number of new Australian species created over the past few years. We
thought that we had seen them all except the NP and Princess Parrot, but now
have to circumnavigate Australia again to mop up what were once subspecies
but now fully fledged species, possibly up to a dozen or more. ( Any excuse.)
Have not looked at the new Birds of Australia yet, will be interested to
see their take on the new species.
The BotW definition of “species” is explained in the fine print forward
of (vol 2) Birds of the World. Although ultimately based on molecular
studies, (which themselves are subject to variable interpretation), todays
species seem to be defined as any discrete geographic population, with even
minimal morphological differences, until proved otherwise.
Australia’s one time Red-breasted Pitta, now Papuan Pitta , ssp
digglesei, is apparently so close to the ssp on the adjacent mainland New
Guinea, from where it is a seasonal migrant, that its subspecies status is
suspect and subject to further scrutiny. Digglesei may disappear.
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