•Possible Tasmanian Morepork in Victoria

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Subject: •Possible Tasmanian Morepork in Victoria
From: Kev Lobotomi <>
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2013 01:34:15 +1000
Here's my take on the subject of Tas Moreporks on the Aust. mainland. 
Without going into too much detail & based on my memory of 3 specimens 
collected I found dead in Victoria (1 beachwashed at Phillip Island; 1 dead on 
road near Ocean Grove & 1 up in the mountains in Camberville) & now lodged in 
the Museum of Victoria & then a comparison between these birds, a good 
collection of Tas skins, Tas-like birds collected in Vic & a large collection 
of mainland ssp all in the Vic Museum. 
Firstly the photograph taken at Hamilton is definitely a Tasmanian Boobook. 
This is based on bright yellow iris (dull greenish yellow in mainland 
Boobooks); small white spotting on crown (if there is any blotching on mainland 
birds it is large & cream or brown, more likely to be streaked in this area; 
certainly not white & not tiny as in this bird); the patterning below is finely 
with whitish blotches (in mainland birds this is occasionally blotched, but not 
white & usually streaked; blotches tend to be larger, or streaked and usually 
cream-coloured, although sometimes whitish); overall the upperparts seem very 
dark (this is more mid-brownish, not so dark brown in mainland birds). I have 
seen a Tas bird in Tas & it was remarkably small-looking & very dark with 
spotting on crown & blotching as described above. 
Within each subspecies (or species?) is a fair bit of variation & there are a 
few birds that may be difficult to separate in the field, but most of the 
differences hold true & I cannot find any evidence of a mainland bird which has 
the Tas Boobook characters that was collected in the summer months of the year. 
This is opposed to around a dozen birds (at last count) collected in Victoria, 
all in Autumn, Winter (? Spring). So without any evidence of there being any 
Summer records of Tas Boobooks, you would have to say they are much more likely 
to be migrants. They are just overlooked because of their similarity to 
mainland birds.
As for whether the Tas bird is a full species, to me it's a matter of degree. I 
actually thought of this well before it was recently postulated & it is a bit 
odd that the bird is small compared to mainland birds, with some good plumage 
differences. I tend to think this bird is part of a relict boobook population, 
which is also true of NZ birds & perhaps the Red Boobook of NE Qld. Whether 
they (or the others) are different enough is a matter of conjecture. Be good if 
we had some Aussie taxonomists to decide these things, instead of people 
overseas. I think if you split this one, there are a bunch of other candidates 
waiting to be looked at from Tas, like the small Tas Magpie, the long 
shrike-like billed Tas Grey Shrike-thrush (bills are supposed to be smaller 
proportionally in higher latitudes, this has a bill at least 33% larger with no 
overlap; additionally has a distinct white throat); & wait there are more......
As for the Pink Robin, the Tas bird sounds like a very weak subspecies anyway, 
so the only way to decide this one is to band some Tas birds & see if they turn 
up on the mainland.
Kevin Bartram

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