Australian bird checklists: disparity or debacle?

To: David James <>
Subject: Australian bird checklists: disparity or debacle?
From: Carl Clifford <>
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2013 12:09:30 +1100
I, for one will continue using the IOC list, no matter what BLA decides. A 
large part ofmy list is of species sighted overseas, and I certainly don't 
intend using one nomenclature for OS sightings and another for Australian 
sightings. The IOC list was drawn up to help prevent confusion, I really 
understand why BLA and BLI have decided to go their own way on nomenclature, 
when there are already multiple nomenclatures already.

Carl Clifford

> On 12 Nov 2013, at 11:16, David James <> wrote:
> 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 Birds
> 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, 
> effectively
> 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
> outcome. 
> 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
> communications. 
> 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? 
> Cheers,
> David James
> Sydney
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