Lesser Sooty & Sooty Owls & others

To: martin cachard <>
Subject: Lesser Sooty & Sooty Owls & others
From: Chris Sanderson <>
Date: Thu, 5 May 2011 09:13:40 +1000
Hi all,

I have apologised to Martin offline, but I just wanted to say sorry to all
for my snappy response yesterday.  I must have been a bit crankier than
usual.  While I stand by my defense of scientific evidence over gut
feelings, Martin is of course correct that people should be allowed to
challenge the established "facts" based on new evidence, and I applaud him
for going about it in the right way.  I look forward to reading the paper
when it is released.


On Wed, May 4, 2011 at 11:52 PM, martin cachard <>wrote:

> G'day all
> 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 point ...
> 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
> Martin Cachard
> Cairns
> > To: 
> > From: 
> > 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://
> >
> > 9RJY8JW6PRM46DBQ_265_995.pdf
> >
> > 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!
> >
> > Cheers
> >
> > Mike
> >
> >
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