Since it seems that it was me that opened this can of worms about these owls
being different, I thought it best to add a little more to try to clarify my
Firstly, I am not technically qualified to question the science behind C&B's (&
other taxonomists') decisions as far as their taxonomic conclusions go.
Secondly, I strictly adhere to C&B 2008 for my personal Aust records list,
beause that is what has been accepted by Birds Australia (& others) as the
official list. No problems there.
Thirdly, I have no problems accepting that similar looking birds can be of a
different species, & that different looking birds can be of the same species.
Therefore, I fully accept that Yellow Rosella's are a race of nominate Crimson
etc etc.... & these are recorded by me as per C&B 2008.
Forthly, I apologise in advance for my layman's terminology...
But what I, and some other local FNQ bird field experts feel, is that we should
still be able to be in a position to question certain things that are still
currently accepted as "known" in the literature. Afterall, isn't it healthy to
question & not just to accept what is written ??!!
It wasn't all that long ago that Bassian Thrush up here (race cuneata) was
"known" to have the same minimal white on it's tail pattern as the more
southern birds, but now we know, through much questioning & revisiting of
specimens & further field work & publishing of findings, that this indeed is
very wrong - the tail pattern up here on these birds is nothing like the
southern Bassian, but rather that it actually resembles more closely the tail
pattern of a Russet-tailed Thrush! It is only because we have questioned what
was thought to be "known", that now we have learned something different about
our FNQ cuneata thrush. We have put a lot of recent field work into this bird
up here & only now are we beginning to understand a little more about it. There
are other species too that we are looking into very closely up here, but we
will do much more work before making our findings public.... these cans of
worms won't be opened in this way - they will be put forward scientifically.
Our concern up here with the lumping of these 2 owls is based on a whole lot
more than just how different the 2 birds look (sorry Chris) - we accept that
this is not enough & we are currently working on what will eventually become a
paper down the track. This will obviously take into account a whole lot more
than merely how these 2 birds differ in appearance......
Just give us some time to finish working on this & hopefully we can provide
enough science to show why we think that Lesser Sooties should be given full
species status (although some of it will be field-based - I'm pretty sure that
this approach can still be called scientific...!!).
David's comments on the strange barred Southern Boobook south of Cairns is very
interesting indeed..... more work needs to be done on race lurida & certainly
without any hesitation, David's barred birds need to be investigated as
well.... we still don't have all the answers...
In closing, I think it's fair to say that there is so much still out there that
we don't know about for sure - so let us keep on questioning what has been
learned already & then, & only then, will we keep on learning. It does pay in
science to keep an open mind...
All the best
> Date: Wed, 4 May 2011 21:38:36 +1000
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Sooty Owls versus Skuas....
> Hi Tony
> Some problems with using mtDNA, and the methodology used by Cohen,
> were picked up in a discussion that stemmed from Cohen's skua paper
> that you referenced see Braun & Brumfield, and it would appear the
> 0.44% divergence does not stand up to scrutiny : http://
> Most recently Chu, Eisenschenk & Zhu proposed a different phylogeny
> for Stercorariidae that had S. pomarinus as sister to all the
> 'catharacta' and not most closely related to C. skua! Which is now of
> course S. skua.....
> (ref: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, Volume 157,
> Issue 3, pg612-62).
> We looked at skua phylogeny recently for a practical at CSU on the
> ornithology course - my head is still spinning!
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