The opinions of Plains-wanderers

To: "Stephen Ambrose" <>
Subject: The opinions of Plains-wanderers
Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2008 14:32:24 +1100
This has always interested me steve. The coastal vrs Inland "adaption" can 
be seen in a number of  different families of bird in Australia. 

The coastal Southern Emu-wren has its inland 'adaptions' of Mallee 
Emu-wren and Rufous Crowned. 

Ground Parrot has its inland Night Parrot.

Coastal Kingfishers have Red-back Kingfisher and Sacred (to a lesser 

The list goes on...

The coastal and inland environments seem to provide very similar habitats 
to each other in Australia.  I know that here in Southern Victoria, you 
often get what you'd normally consider to be inland species appearing in 
coastal Black-eared Cuckoo, and Spiny-cheeked 

Western Australia is probably the best study of this phenomena where a lot 
of bird species that the rest of the country would consider inland 
species, have populations on the coast. 

I think using water as a basis of classification might be a bit of a 

The terms Shorebirds and Waders all  have reference to water, but birds 
like Little Curlew, Ibis species, as well as the other 3 species 
previously mentions(dotterel, lapwing and plains wanderer), all can be 
found 100's of kilometres from water.  Perhaps a more common element is 
wide expanse's or sparse vegetation. We could call them Plainbirds, but 
i'm sure they wouldn't appreciate being called plain ; )


"Stephen Ambrose" <> 
Sent by: 
17/01/2008 01:34 PM

"'Robert Inglis'" <>, "'Birding-Aus'" 

RE: [Birding-Aus] The opinions of Plains-wanderers

This discussion makes me wonder if some shorebird species of inland
Australia that aren't normally associated with present-day wetlands (e.g.
Plains Wanderer, Inland Dotterel, Banded Lapwing) once inhabited inland
wetlands of earlier geological times. As the Australian climate became
drier, perhaps many inland wetlands permanently dried up and a few species
of shorebirds adapted to living in semi-arid and arid shrublands where the
wetlands once occurred.


I've always wondered about this with respect to Australia's kingfisher
species. Did some of these species once forage and nest along prehistoric
river banks whose rivers disappeared as the continent dried out, but now
live at least part of the year in semi-arid woodlands and shrublands?





Dr Stephen Ambrose



Ryde, NSW


-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Robert Inglis
Sent: Thursday, 17 January 2008 12:53 PM
To: Birding-Aus
Subject: The opinions of Plains-wanderers


I believe that Plains-wanderers, if they could understand the question

(given our human limitations in presenting such a question to a far more

sophisticated species than our own) and if we could understand and 

the philosophical thinking of Plains-wanderers, would greatly resent the

arrogance of our species suggesting that they should be "lumped" with any

other species or group of species and/or that they should be placed in 

arbitrary grouping devised by human beings for their own convenience given 


they, the Plains-wanderers (if, indeed, that is what they call 

have been spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make themselves

quite distinct from any other species that has, to our limited knowledge,

ever existed.


Just thought I would say that in response to these extracts from previous

postings (no names - no pack-drill):


"I just bought "Shorebirds of Australia", and was surprised to see that it

covers Plains-wanderer.  I can understand their explanation that it's


related to other shorebirds, but if it doesn't look or act like one, why

include it?"


"Not really - not all "waders" wade - some are much happier inland. Banded

Lapwings and Inland Dotterels are two examples that spring to mind that

rarely get their toes wet! The grouping into "families" is done on lots of

characteristics, not just the habitat and "Shorebirds" is generally taken 

mean a specific scientific group. One could argue that a Silver Gull is a

shorebird as you find it at the seaside, but it does not fit in the 

scientific group so I expect it will not be in your book."


"It makes more sense including them in this book, as they belong to a

family of birds referred to as "shorebirds" rather than having them

clumped with Button-quails as they were for so many years."


"Hmmm, I think it is logically questionable to use the term "belongs" when

you are referring to bird classifications. I think that Plains Wanderers

have a lot more in common with Button Quail than with Godwits and



Handbook of Birds of the World has them as a "Shorebird". Helm's 

of the World does not. Pizzey does, Clements 5th does. I think IOU and

Birdlife International do as well?"


"Well, what I mean is that being "lumped" with shorebirds is somewhat

different to "belongs" in the shorebirds group. I don't think that Plains

Wanderers would view themselves as shorebirds, if it were possible to ask

their opinion."



Please note: I am in no way intending to be critical of any of the

contributors to this topic. I neither definitely agree nor definitely 

disagree with any of the

statements so far made.

I would dispute, though, the claim ".....and "Shorebirds" is generally 


mean a specific scientific group".  There is really nothing scientific 

groupings such as "shorebirds", "waders", "water birds", "sea birds".

The scientific group to which "shorebirds" have been assigned is the order 

Charadriiformes however not all Charadriiformes are commonly referred to 

"shorebirds" and many Charadriiformes are definitely not "waders".


Plains-wanderers have been accepted in Australia as belonging in the order 

Charadriiformes since at least 1994 (see The taxonomy and Species of Birds 

of Australia and its Territories, Christidis and Bowles, RAOU Monograph 2, 



Bob Inglis

Sandstone Point



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