Boobooks, & other interesting Tas subspecies

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Subject: Boobooks, & other interesting Tas subspecies
From: Kev Lobotomi <>
Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2013 00:37:07 +1000
I can off hand think of 2 others that should be looked at. Bearing in mind that 
I don't consider myself as any kind of taxonomist, but it's always good to have 
things looked at. A lot of what is below is from some notes, memory & also 

Firstly the so-called Brown Thornbill Acanthiza pusilla of Tasmania (as opposed 
to the Tasmanian Thornbill Acanthiza ewingi, which is more obviously a good 
species), I do believe shows some genetic similarities with the Inland 
Thornbill, rather than the SE subspecies of Brown Thornbill. I did detect some 
differences between Tas Brown Thonbills and those of the mainland when I was 
there last there in 2010. This included: a stouter, larger bill; paler 
freckling on the forehead with less of a rufous tinge than the mainland ssp; 
more greyish brown tinge overall on the upperparts, less richly olive-brown 
upperparts; also perhaps less buffy on the flanks & undertail (not so certain 
of this one). It would be also useful to investigate things like undertail 
pattern. Many of these characters sound more on the Inland Thornbill side, 
rather than Brown. If the Tas A. pusilla is more closely related genetically to 
Inland Thornbills, then either all 3 should be split into distinct species,
  or all lumped (since Brown Thornbill & Inland almost certainly interbreed in 
some areas, for example I've seen some possible hybrids in the Kamarooka mallee 
region of Bendigo & perhaps the Little Desert). I definitely think this one 
deserves a good look. 
The other is the Tas Grey Fantail. Given the great variation within Grey 
Fantails in Aust., this one is probably a bit more tenuous, but it shares 
something with the Boobook Owls. The Tas ssp albiscapa (which migrates to the 
Aust mainland in large numbers in Autumn, Winter & Spring is darker almost 
sooty grey compared to the mainland birds (subspecies alisteri), which are more 
medium grey. Sometimes because of wear & age this is difficult to see in the 
field, but these 2 subspecies can nearly always be separated by their undertail 
patterns. Tas birds have only the very fringes of the outer tail feather edged 
white, whereas mainland birds have white extending further into the feather, 
about a centimetre. The reason this bird has something in common with Boobooks 
is that in NZ they have a fantail (now regarded as a full species) which is 
darker, although the very white tail pattern suggests that this bird is 
probably correctly regarded as a full species now. Also in the mountai
 ns of NE Qld there is a similar resident subspecies of Grey Fantail, which is 
dark above (even darker than Tas birds!) & has narrow white fringes to the 
outer tail feathers. In many ways this bird is similar to Tas albiscapa. Also 
Boobooks have a small dark representative in NE Qld, which is the Red Boobook. 
Whether this is all convergence, or relict populations needs to be tested with 
genetics. But it is interesting from a taxanomic point of view, that there are 
these similarities between Tas, NZ & SE Qld, in both Grey Fantail & Boobooks & 
it needs to be ascertained whether they all have a common ancestor, or have 
become as they are in isolation. Certainly worth questioning. 
Look forward to the feedback-Kevin Bartram

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