To: Mike Carter <>
Subject: Checklists
From: Geoff Bowen <>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 21:00:09 +0000
Hi Mike

To add another slant to the check-list debate: two or three years back, I decided for my own personal perspective, there was almost too much change for most of us to keep up with. At the very least it meant spending much time wading through various web sites and literature to do the research. So, I decided to take a more pragmatic approach & base my records on what I started out thinking of as diagnosable taxons. This quickly grew to incorporate incipient species whether diagnosable or not.

Basically I have ended up with a database that records the status of each taxon as species, subspecies or even superspecies. This I can modify to suit when opinion changes. Therefore, I record what I see at the level of the taxon, then when I need to report on what I've seen at the species level, I do a query extracting just species current at the time. Also, when a taxon's status changes as has happened with the Great Egret of Australia, I find the entry in the master table of taxons & update one record. Then the same query on species will select one extra species.

To get here I started with the Sibley & Monroe, added various updates, added all the extras from Clements, IOC etc. I spent many hours pouring through the database, but now I've got it almost sorted !


Geoff Bowen
Norwich, UK

Mike Carter wrote:
I received the following as a private enquiry but as I think others may be equally confused think it should be shared. "Mike, I write to you personally as if I post this on Birding-aus I fear of more confusion.

With World lists, there seem to be a number. My first one was done using Sibley and Monroe. Now I am faced with Clements, C&B (What ever that stands for) and IOC.

I have attempted to wade through the Archives for a reasonable answer and come up only with opinions. Or is that all there is??

What is a "consistent" list that I can adhere to. Is there a "recognised" one for Birds of Australia?

Does this mean the Great Egret in Australia is now separate from the ones I have seen in Africa? Similarly the Koel here different to the Singapore one?? And are the Albatrosses seen off Wollongong actually only Wandering, not Gibson's/wandering etc??"

I replied as follows

They all are just matters of opinion. Taxonomy is not an exact science. For a world list Sibley & Monroe was a standard reference but is now well out of date. But there were always various other authors of Checklists, Clements being a very popular one but Howard & Moore seems to be gaining favour. Each of these need updating frequently as new information is gained and opinions change. Consistency is not possible. They are just work in progress.

Even within Australia there is more than one Checklist. The CSIRO has one, as it is a dreadful document riddled with errors it is deservedly ignored, the Department of Heritage and the Environment have another, this too has flaws, but that with the most authority, generally regarded as the Official Australian Checklist is that produced by Christidis & Boles (hence C & B). Their latest list has just been published replacing the one issued in 1994, thus initiating the current debate.

If you want to make a contribution in the birding world, it is essential to own a copy. I used the previous edition almost daily.

With regard to your last paragraph, as to what are considered species, the answers are yes, the Great Egrets and Koels are split, and yes, the Wandering Albatrosses remain as one. They never were officially split! But if one works just on which forms are regarded as species, one is going to lose important information. Populations do differ in many ways. So one should be aware and record which Wandering Albatross it is, which subspecies, race, taxon or form. Giving them different names is a good idea so that others know which is the subject form. If there are discernable differences, recognise them. But don't call or count them as species.

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
Tel  (03) 9787 7136

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