from David James re Pica pica

Subject: from David James re Pica pica
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2001 12:12:01 +1100
I thought I'd sent this message yesterday but it appears not to have been
received. So apologies to anyone with two copies especially those sick of
this subject but several items in David James posting of 25 Feb. must be
refuted or corrected.

1. Hays Point Black-billed Magpie Pica pica - " No evidence of captivity"?
After Desley Williams and Les Thyer had confirmed the identification, Lloyd
Nielson sent me a message. This included the statement; "Apparently it is
fairly tame so maybe it has been someone's pet from a ship".
2. Is it tickable? Not if it comes before BARC and another member agrees
with me. Only those species on the Australian List, and individuals which
meet the acceptance criteria, are tickable. In the case of vagrants this is
determined by BARC but only if it functions properly. On present knowledge,
under current rules and anticipated clarification thereof, I would not vote
for acceptance of the Hays Point, or Newcastle, Magpies.
My reasons for this include the above reported behaviour, the reluctance,
even refusal, of the species to cross sea, its extreme sedentary nature (see
BWP), and compared with House Crow, no record of movements which result in
the establishment of extralimital or feral populations.
Some members of BARC were aware of my opinion on this, including David (or
so I thought). It is disappointing that David chose to assert otherwise.
3. BARC Rules regarding ship-assistance. David is right, as a member of the
committee, I should be familiar with BARC Rules and should make judgements
in accordance with them. Likewise, as a frequent proxy member, so should
David. But it is he, not I who is not cognizant with the rules. There is no
rule that prohibits acceptance of live vagrants that may have been
ship-assisted. Bob Patterson, the then chairman, drew up the present rules
in 1991. The current chairman, Tony Palliser confirms that there is no
amendment that affects this. So BARC rules have always allowed, and continue
to allow, for the acceptance of ship-assisted vagrants.
4. "There has been no change in policy in at least a decade". Well, why else
was the House Crow removed from the Australian List? The species was
included in The Interim List of Australian Song Birds by Schodde (1975) and
therefore on the List until the publication of Christidis & Boles in 1994.
It was included in the first Atlas and in all or most field guides. It was
included on BARCs predecessors review list (see RAOU Report No. 80,
Patterson 1991) thus admitting its acceptance on the Australian List. It was
first omitted from the review list in1996 (RAOU Report No. 101, Patterson
1996). Since the rules had not changed, one hopes that its removal was the
result of a vote of the committee. Surely this was a policy change and by my
calculations, it occurred in the last decade!
5. "Nonsense".  Is it nonsense to conform to the rules? Is it nonsense to
adopt sensible practice? Is it nonsense to be consistent with overseas
authorities that accept ship-assistance as a normal means of dispersal?
6. Eurasian Magpie & House Crow on the Australian List? For reasons given
above, I have never contemplated advocating that Black-billed Magpie be
added to the Australian List and David does me an injustice by implying that
I have. The House Crow is a different matter and arguments for its
reinstatement are given above, below, and in my previous statement dated 20
Feb. 2001. In my view, its removal was an improper act. This should be
Pertinent to the credentials for House Crow is the paper by Arnold
McGill in Emu 1949, p. 83-84, 'Australian Status of the Colombo Crow'. It's
an astonishing read, an example of the adage "The more things change, the
more they stay the same".  Although written over 50 years ago, it could be a
contribution to the current debate addressing problems such as
ship-assistance. It quotes two examples of House Crows accompanying liners
from Colombo to Australia including an account of a voyage by Keith
Hindwood. He noticed two House Crows in the rigging soon after the ship left
Colombo. They were seen "on and off" until they departed when in sight of
land approaching Fremantle. Keith was unable to determine how they acquired
their food, if indeed they ate at all on the voyage.
 For a recent published opinion on the proper status of House Crow see page
783 in Schodde & Mason 1999, The Directory of Australian Birds - Passerines.
They include it in their list of 'Accepted Vagrant Taxa' and give their
reasons for so doing.

The above, combined with support from members of this chat group, indicate
that David and his supporters are out of step. Their opposition is based on
fallacious arguments and an out-dated premise.

 Good science first, ticking second.

       Mike Carter

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