Re: little Wattlebird

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Re: little Wattlebird
From: "Robert Inglis" <>
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007 08:40:16 +1000
Peter Marsh wrote:
"Bob Inglis wrote "I think we can safely say that the split has taken place if
we can accept the entries for Little and Western Wattlebird in HANZAB*. The
Western Wattlebird is recognised as occurring in SW Western Australia and
Little Wattlebird occurs in the east." in response to my posting suggesting a
sighting of the western form of this bird is a potential split.

My understanding is (and I would be delighted to be corrected by someone as it
would be a tick!) is that the official list is that set out in Christides and
Bowles (1994) as supplemented by any additions approved by BARC. I further
understand that C&B lump the Eastern and Western races. I have personally
adopted the policy of not counting a species unless it is "official"

While HANZAB and the BA revised list show the Western Wattlebird as a separate
species my understanding has been that neither of these sources are "official"
- whatever that actually means."


I have been trying to determine the meaning of "official" in the context of discussions such as this for the best part of 30 years. It is quite obvious that there is a number of competing forces struggling to achieve this position of "officialdom". And, in a society such as ours, you have a perfect right to determine which force, if any, you choose to fly your flag with. In my case, it should be obvious to regular readers of my postings to BirdingAus that my flag flies in the same field as that of Birds Australia (BA) when battles such as this are being fought.

It should also be noted that BARC, as its name suggests (Birds Australia Rarities Committee), is an "official" BA committee. However, it is my understanding that BARC deals with claims of rarities sightings but has nothing to do with deciding on "splits" and "lumps".

If you choose not to accept the split in the case of the Little Wattlebird, then, that is your prerogative. I would assume, though, that you do work from a list which you consider to be "official". If that is the case, then, I assume you are consistent with that list. You seem to infer that your "official" list is the one in the 1994 RAOU monograph "The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories". As that list does not agree with a number of claims made in "the ground-breaking" (as described in HANZAB Vol 5) "Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines" by Schodde and Mason (2000), I assume you do not accept the splits and lumps set out in that publication. However, it is my observation that a large percentage of the birdwatching fraternity in Australia has not heard of the 1994 RAOU monograph let alone read it. Therefore, most birders are using one or more of the current Australian field guides as their "official" list. Considering the variations in these field guides, especially if older versions are being used, it is no wonder that there is so much confusion over the situation of species such as the ones in dispute here. (It seems that the authors of most of these field guides have accepted the changes in HANZAB for the latest versions of their field guides.)

Incidentally, HANZAB used Condon's "Checklist of the Birds of Australia" (1975) as a reference for Australian birds in Volumes 1 and 2 and then changed to the revised species list of Australian birds by Christidis and Boles (1994) from Volume 3. Neither list has been strictly followed there being a number of exceptions due, I imagine, to the perception that newer research has changed some thinking on some species.

For what it's worth, I believe that, if you are simply looking to add 'ticks' to your personal life-list, then you should create your own "official" list from the publications you feel comfortable with.
I suspect that Morecombe's latest version of his field guide has the largest 
If, however, you are planning to be an authority on birds/birding or to make a career out of being a bird-guide, then you need to be a bit more scientific in your approach. I have decided to make my birding as simple as possible by accepting the guidance provided by BA but I do wish they would publish the updated checklist as soon as possible.

Bob Inglis


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