Australian bird checklists: disparity or debacle?

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Australian bird checklists: disparity or debacle?
From: David James <>
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2013 16:16:32 -0800 (PST)
Roger, it’s a pertinent question, “what is going on with the
Birdlife Australia Working list versus the BARC IOC Checklist?”. I’m sure there
are plenty of confused people who wish to know more. Since Tony Palliser is
away, I’ll provide some information from my position as a member of BARC.
However, I emphasize that this is only one side of the story, and I do not
represent BARC’s position. 
BirdLife Australia Rarities Committee (BARC) needs a checklist
that deals with bird species occurring outside Australia. BARC used to use the 
Australia Australian checklists, namely Christidis & Boles 1994 and Christidis
& Boles 2008. However, these never covered birds not yet recorded in
Australia. For those birds, BARC once followed Sibley & Monroe (1993), but in
2006, during the preparation of C&B 2008, Walter Boles recommended to Tony
Palliser that BARC follow IOC checklist, which is international and online. For
several years BARC followed C&B for most birds but IOC for anything new to
the Australian list. By 2010 this was becoming impossible as the 2 lists were
not close. C&B 2008 was ageing rapidly. Furthermore, the BA’s Taxonomic
Advisory Committee had disbanded and there was no prospect that the Australian
checklist would be revised again in a suitable time frame.  After committee 
discussions and an internal
voting process in late 2011 BARC decided to prepare a checklist of Australian
birds using the IOC taxonomy, nomenclature and sequence. 
Before adopting or releasing the BARC checklist we informed
the then CEO of Birds Australia (Graham Hamilton) of our intent, via a detail
memorandum that outlined our reasons and why we had chosen the IOC system over
other options. At that time BARC was aware that the recently published “The 
Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010” by BA adopted a species list that was 
based on C&B 2008 with updates from
BLI checklist and exceptions where required. This was addressed in the memo
with the suggestion that “Such a synthetic approach shows that an updated
checklist has been required for some time. It is likely that this sort of
approach cannot provide for consistency in the future”. No immediate response
was received, so BARC released the first version of its checklist in November
2011, announced primarily via Birding-Aus and the BARC website. 
Some months later the memo reached staff members at the BLA
office in Melbourne, who contacted Tony Palliser, but were not encouraging, 
saying “we have our own checklist” based on the Action plan list. It suddenly
transpired that before long, different sections of BLA could be using different
checklists. Obviously this was not intended or desirable. After some debate, it
was decided that the issue would be put to the BA Research and Conservation
Committee (RACC). BARC reiterated its case in a revised memo, although we never
saw the arguments or a case for the BLA checklist. Last I heard, perhaps a year
ago or more, it had been raised at the RACC once or twice but there was no
Subsequently BLA released its draft checklist announced via
the BLA e-newsletter on 1 July 2013. BARC had not been advised that the
checklist was being released, and were taken by surprise since we were expecting
some resolution from the RACC first. Incidentally, the long-standing Recommended
English Names Committee (RENC) was taken completely unawares, and the large
number of REN changes in the BLA checklist prompted a number of resignations
from that committee. Apparently the RACC will decide whether the BLA draft list
will be adopted by BLA, or perhaps they already have. Meanwhile, BARC has not
heard anything from the RACC. 
This has become a frustrating situation. In my view it has arisen
through a lack of communication. I am as eager as anyone to see it resolved. It
is desirable to have only one Australian checklist. It is also desirable that
the one checklist be as good as it can be. Having investigated things in
detail, BARC is of the opinion that the IOC system is superior to the BLI
system and the synthetic BLA system, and we have argued that case strongly.
However, BLA has not responded in substance, except by ignoring BARC’s
Should BARC abandon the IOC checklist system if the RACC
endorses the BLA checklist, or continue to argue for adoption of the IOC system?
Can we have 2 checklists in Australia and BLA? Can BARC maintain a list of
birds confirmed in Australia in IOC taxonomy even if BLA officially uses its
own taxonomy? Should staff members at BLA take over the traditional roles of
committees such as the Recommended English Names Committee, the Taxonomic
Advisory Committee and BARC? 

David James

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU