Re: Ashmore expedition 2009

To: "Peter Lansley" <>, <>
Subject: Re: Ashmore expedition 2009
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 2009 22:18:44 +1100
Peter Lansley wrote,
  "Collared Kingfisher of Indonesian origin?
  I agree that is most likely, but it would be useful for others to know your 
reasoning. Jeff Davies has suggested that the Asian including Indonesian birds 
(i.e. White-collared or Collared Kingfisher, palmeri (Java + Bali) and chloris 
- Wallacea) and Aust. birds (formerly Mangrove Kingfisher sordidus and pilbara) 
are quite distinct and should probably be split. I agree with him, on the basis 
of dorsal colour, vocalisations and habitat preference. Probably other more 
subtle characters to differentiate the two groups will become apparent upon 
further investigation. If they are ultimately split, you will need to have 
notes supporting a BARC submission!"

  Well as it isn't split yet, theoretically we don't need a BARC submission. 
But if we wanted to publish then we'd need something equivalent. Re notes, 
virtually nothing on this bird but some on previous occurrences. But we do have 
lots of photos of the 2006 and this years bird. I'm not going to write a 'BARC 
submission' for you here but just off the top of my head obvious differences 
from Australian birds are less massive bill and brighter plumage notably on 
crown and dorsal surfaces.

  Black-faced Cuckooshrike (BFCS) - 'Photographs of one showed unmarked white 
underwing coverts indicating the Australian taxon'. I agree the bird is from 
(mainland) Australia, however:-
  There are three Aust. taxa of this bird. Nominate novaehollandiae from 
Tasmania, melanops from most of mainland Australia and subpallida from the 
Pilbara, WA. There are no other taxa of BFCS, so it is somewhat misleading to 
suggest that there might be. The only breeding population of BFCS outside 
Australia is in southern PNG (Coates 1990 The Birds of Papua New Guinea Volume 
  As discussed in HANZAB Vol. 7 Part A p. 282, BFCS Coracina novaehollandiae is 
part of the C. caledonica superspecies comprising eight forms. HANZAB correctly 
splits this group as separate species, contrary to previous taxonomic orthodoxy 
that prevailed prior to the 1980's, such as King 1975 A Field Guide to the 
Birds of South-East Asia and others. I have observed in the field six of the 
eight (all except caledonica and schistacea) and I'm satified that none of the 
other five are conspecific with BFCS. Each one is vocally and morphologically 
distinct and instantly recognisable as different to BFCS. The fact they were 
ever lumped is an indictment of old-style museum-based ornithology based solely 
on dead birds.
  The splitting of this group is supported by most recent workers e.g. White & 
Bruce 1986 The Birds of Wallacea; Inskipp et al. 1996 An Annotated Checklist of 
the Birds of the Oriental Region (and 2009 online update); Coates & Bishop 1997 
A Guide to the Birds of Wallacea; Schodde & Mason 1999 The Directory of 
Australian Birds; Robson 2000 A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia.
  So in summary, Black-faced Cukooshrike Coracina novaehollandiae is not found 
west of Wallace's Line and occurs as a breeding species only in Australia, 
Tasmania and southern PNG on current information, although it migrates to the 
Lesser Sundas and Moluccas groups and elsewhere in eastern Indonesia, and as 
far as northern Melanesia.

  Not everyone will agree with you that the taxonomy of this superspecies is 
settled but my wording was clumsy. So I've changed 'the' Australian taxon, to 
'an' Australian taxon, and added 'not Wallacean Cuckoo-shrike' as clarification.

  Please also note that the ID of the Fin Whales has also been questioned with 
Omura's Whale now favoured by some. Information available at the time suggested 
that that taxon (not previously recorded in Australia) was smaller than the 
animals we saw but the text we used may be wrong.

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

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