The Lesser Sooty Owl and Sooty Owl?

To: Tony Russel <>, "'Chris Sanderson'" <>
Subject: The Lesser Sooty Owl and Sooty Owl?
From: Tim Dolby <>
Date: Wed, 4 May 2011 02:27:02 +0000
Hi all,

To determine taxonomical status Christidis and Bole use mainly morphological 
and molecular characters, rather than things like topography, food, hunting, 
behaviour, breeding, and vocalisations. According to the research carried out 
by C&B the Sooty and Lesser Sooty are less morphologically different that many 
birds considered the same species. In essence the specific status is 
substantiated by DNA evidence with nucleotide substitution in DNA-sequencing 
variable at subspecific level from zero to 1%. Greater differences suggest 
species status. A good example of this is found in Southern Boobook, with birds 
in Victoria being more morphologically divergent from birds in northern NSW 
than Sooty Owl are from Lesser Sooty Owl. In essence it depends on where you 
draw the line.

Quite clearly subspecies complex are poorly understood and further detailed 
work is required.

Personally I'd hoped that genetics would give us some clear answers when 
determining species status, however quite obviously this is not the case - and 
from reading the comments here - it is still a matter of interpretation.


Tim Dolby

 on behalf of Tony Russel 

Sent: Wednesday, May 04, 2011 12:21 PM
To: 'Chris Sanderson'
Cc: 'birding-aus threads'; 
Subject: The Lesser Sooty Owl and Sooty Owl?

Hallo Chris, I'm not sure I deserved such a condemning response - I
certainly wasn't complaining about the published taxonomy - merely that I
choose not to go along with all of it and have in fact moved on without some
of it.

And yes, I do keep the Crimson Rosella Platycercus elegans separate from the
subspecies nigrescens, flaveolus, subadelaidae,  fleurieuensis, and
melanoptera (on KI, and recently also on the tip of Cape Jervis where I have
a property).

I do choose not to adhere slavishly to what the professionals dictate  .
That's not to say they are wrong, just that I choose otherwise.  I think
it's still a free world ?


From: Chris Sanderson 
Sent: Wednesday, 4 May 2011 11:18 AM
To: Tony Russel
Cc: martin cachard; ; birding-aus threads
Subject: The Lesser Sooty Owl and Sooty Owl?

Do you all have Adelaide and Yellow Rosellas on your list as separate
species too?  They are pretty distinct from the Crimson Rosellas we have
locally but are the same species taxonomically also (for now at least, I
think there's a paper in the works on this).  Personally I'll leave taxonomy
to the professionals.  If you have complaints, please publish a peer
reviewed journal article to rectify the taxonomic disparity rather than
complaining about others who have done good science.  Not saying you are
wrong about the Sooty Owl complex, but C&B is based on the best available
science at the time of writing, if you want it overturned, fix the science,
otherwise accept the umpire's decision and move on.



On Wed, May 4, 2011 at 11:38 AM, Tony Russel <> wrote:

I keep the Sooty and the Lesser Sooty Owls as two separate species. Anyone
who has seen them knows very well how different they are.


-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of martin cachard
Sent: Wednesday, 4 May 2011 10:10 AM
To: ; birding-aus threads
Subject: The Lesser Sooty Owl and Sooty Owl?

Hi Patrick

When you come up to FNQ & hopefully observe the local Lesser Sooty Owl, you
can't  'officially' count it as a new species tick (unless of course, you
are yet to see a Sooty Owl further south!!).

BUT, this 'lumping' by C&B 2008 is strongly disputed by many, including many
of us up here more familiar with this bird in the field than some

So Patrick,  come up here, find & enjoy the bird, record that you've
observed it, & in time,  I'm sure that you will find that this local bird
will be split again from the Sooty Owl & given the full species recognition
it deserves. Some of us up here are currently working on this to be
rectified....but there is much work still to be done on this one....(amongst
some other lumps/splits of FNQ birds).

As for further answers to your questions about what is tickable (or not) due
to a species' status, I'm sure someone else more qualified than me can help
to explain this to you.

But for my own records list, I just make sure what birds I observe are
recorded to sub-species level - changes in the taxonomy of our birds, &
accordingly our official list (whatever the source of it), will continue to
occur. For now, I keep my records as per the current C&B species list as it
is defined in 2008 because this is the current official species list,
like/agree with it or not. I can update my full species list as the changes
to the official list occur since I have a record of the sub-species I have
seen & where. I think you will find that most Aust birders do the same thing
or similar.

Someone else I'm certain, will add a better & more scientific explanation
about your other questions - I,  for now, just wanted to put my gripe out
there about the poor lumping of Lesser Sooty Owl on behalf of several other
dismayed local FNQ birders !!

Obviously Patrick, as it stands now I haven't got a Lesser Sooty Owl on my
species list - just 2 sub-species/races of Sooty Owl....


Martin Cachard
0428 782 808

> Date: Wed, 4 May 2011 09:11:11 +1000
> From: 
> To: 
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] The Lesser Sooty Owl and Sooty Owl?
> Hi All,
> After reading Sean Dooley's reply to Paul, I have been trying to figure
> what happened with the Christidis and Boles list with regards to the
> Sooty Owl. In the guide books they are a different size and live in
> different parts of the country, so why is the Lesser Sooty Owl no longer
> counted as a separate species? Does this mean that if I am lucky enough to
> see the owl formally known as the Lesser Sooty Owl on the Atherton
> Tableland that I will be seeing the Sooty Owl? Can someone please explain
> this to me or at least if it makes no sense to others then, what is the
> official explanation? And I have been trying to figure out the conspecific
> term. C & D still have some species as separate (tickable) but as
> conspecific. Are they saying that as with the Western Wattlebird and
> Wattlebird that at some stage millions of years ago they were one species?
> Thanks,
> Patrick Scully
> ===============================
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