birding-aus Re: Bird Names vs Code numbers: comments from a US birder

Subject: birding-aus Re: Bird Names vs Code numbers: comments from a US birder
Date: Sat, 6 Mar 1999 09:31:35 +0800

Richard & Birding-Aus

I have some WA bird lists (e.g. Broome, Kununurra/Wyndham, WA) on my web
site in my ftp directory.  They are Word
6 documents.  I highly recommend a trip to Broome (waders, mangroves, BOPs,
etc) with a side trip to Derby, and Kununurra/Wyndham (finches, BOPs, etc).
There are web pages for these and many other areas of WA.  Allan Burbidge
also has some WA lists (Stirling Ranges, Albany, Shark Bay, Lake McLarty)
on his web pages (see the links on my page).

However, bird lists are only an indication of what has been seen at least
***once*** at a location.  In a week at the Broome Bird Observatory you can
find 110 to 160 species out of a bird list of ~300, while at the Eyre Bird
Observatory you may find 45 to 55 out of a bird list of ~250.  That doesn't
mean that the EBO is not worth visiting.  Dryandra State Forest in south
west WA would have a bird list of about 120 (+/- 20) and you would see 50
to 60 species in a couple of days.  And there is nothing better than local
knowledge.  e.g. a casual visitor to Dryandra may see 5 to 10 species fewer
because they may not come across Painted Button-quail, Malleefowl, Western
Yellow Robin, Hooded Robin, etc, etc unless told/shown specific places to


As for names and numbers, I believe that Australia does have a standard.
The standard names are the list published by Christidis & Boles in December
1995, and the standard numbers are the numbers used for the Atlas project.
However, nothing stays still.  C&B recommended that their list be revised
in 2000, after more work had been done on the relationships of the
passerines.  I presume that a new list will be published after HANZAB has
been completed.

Unfortunately not everyone chooses to follow these standards.  The field
guides were pretty good and released updated editions.  Ron Johnstone from
the WA Museum published the first half of his definitive work on WA birds
and this is a must for any serious WA birder.  But he disagrees with many
of the standard names (he uses flyeater for gerygone, etc) and also in some
cases species (he recognises Brown-tailed Flyeater from the Kimberley which
in most other works isn't even a sub species of Western Gerygone).

The WA group of Birds Australia has a National Parks database.  It used the
numbers from the first Atlas project.  It required considerable work to
update the database when Christidis & Boles was published.  Lumping is
comparatively easy, but splitting can be a nightmare, especially if the
races overlap.  Also databases such as this need some 'generic'
names/numbers such as White-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Corella, Snipe, etc for
birds that were recorded but the specific species was not determined.

No system of names or numbers will do for ever.  They will always need to
be updated.  Your problem partly arises from comparing lists published at
different times.  Even the scientific name changes.  C&B updated many
scientific names for reasons that they documented very well.  Your problem
with sub species will always exist.  C&B did not publish a list of sub
species.  Perhaps the HANZAB team will publish the updated list of species,
and also their recommended sub species when they have completed their work.

Your linking of your lists is a valuable resource.  One Question.  What
happens when you load an update of Clements or Sibley/Monroe?  Do you have
to redo a considerable amount of work?

It is not up to Christidis & Boles (or the Atlas) to cross reference their
lists to the field guides.  It can only be the field guides that can choose
to do this.  Simpson & Day does it to some extent.  C&B has a standard
order, but it does not make sense for example to put the white egrets on
separate pages of a field guide, so none of the field guides stick
completely to this order.  Of course it is open to general birders to
produce these cross references and publish them.

Frank O'Connor

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