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
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 !
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is now well out of date.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
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.
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Mount Eliza VIC 3930
Tel (03) 9787 7136
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