Grasswren and owl taxonomy

To: <>
Subject: Grasswren and owl taxonomy
From: "Murray Lord" <>
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2011 19:12:25 +1100
To address two points raised today:

1  Rowleyi form of Striated Grasswren.  A 2010 paper on grasswrens by 
Christidis, Rheindt, Boles and Norman (Plumage patterns are good indicators of 
taxonomic diversity, but not of phylogenetic affinities, in Australian 
grasswrens Amytornis (Aves: Maluridae)) included genetic samples from rowleyi.  
While it didn’t specifically address whether it deserves to be split, some of 
the the results did suggest the genetic differences between rowleyi and other 
forms of Striated Grasswren are comparable with those between some other 
species pairs.  Actually there have been quite a few papers on Fairy-Wren and 
Grasswren taxonomy in recent times.  Most are listed at this thread on Bird 
Forums:  It is interesting 
that this form was only described in 1999, whereas most of the other Australian 
splits or potential splits have been known about for a long time.

2  Tasmanian Boobook.  This is something I have been looking at recently.  The 
treatment Joshua refers to was first published in Handbook of the Birds of the 
World.  At the time Les Christidis said (see ) that it 
was based on a misinterpretation of some of his research.  But having looked at 
specimens, the Tasmanian birds do look more similar to New Zealand ones than 
mainland ones.  See these photos I took of specimens at the Australian Museum:  Frank Rheindt and James Eaton are doing 
some research on genetics of Ninox owls which hopefully will shed more light.

The second edition of Owls of the World by Weick goes further and splits four 
Boobooks – Tasmanian, New Zealand, Australian and Red (lurida).  The absence of 
any genetic samples of lurida, plus a lack of detailed research on how they 
interact with other forms of boobook, makes it hard to assess the merit of that 

Hope this helps.

Murray Lord

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