More on Cape York Subspecies and Rarities

To: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Subject: More on Cape York Subspecies and Rarities
From: Michael Ramsey <>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 2016 01:59:58 +0000
Thanks Lloyd, very interesting reading. Any other subspecies that may warrant 
specific status? Facinating area!

Sent from my iPhone

> On 17 Feb 2016, at 11:59, Lloyd Nielsen <> wrote:
> A bit more to add to the recent discussion about Wet Tropics/Cape York 
> subspecies and rarities.
> I had John Young look at the boobook photo taken on Mt Lewis by Josh and his 
> mates and he was satisfied that it was lurida. Even though the quality of the 
> photo was not the best, jizz and markings were right for lurida in his 
> opinion. He also said there did not seem to be any indication of ocellata in 
> the plumage, despite the quality of the photo. Further, he is confident it is 
> a fairly young bird - even younger than I would have said. He said that 
> whitish under the throat indicates a young bird and that they lose that after 
> a while. The fact that the bird did not move probably indicates a young bird 
> as well for lurida is often very skittish and can be very difficult to get 
> sight of.
> I also asked him about the probable difference in breeding seasons of lurida 
> and ocellata and he agreed with my experience. He has found a number of nests 
> of lurida over the years, all in November, and more of ocellata which were in 
> the early to mid dry season - up until about August-September. This would 
> mean that it could be difficult for hybridisation to take place. His opinion 
> is that when one form is brooding eggs, the other would probably have large 
> young on the wing or vice versa and then be in a different stage of moult. 
> Like myself, he has never seen any indication of hybridisation in lurida and 
> both of us doubt that it takes place, or if it does, very rarely. If there 
> was hybridisation, we should be seeing in-between birds from time to time but 
> we aren't. All are fairly standard lurida. There seems to be some small 
> differences, probably between sexes, and we think possibly age variation as 
> well. Young birds differ slightly again. We suspect this may be the reason 
> people a
 re seeing "hybrids". Young lurida are on the wing right now (January-February).
> One is a rainforest bird and subject to rainforest conditions while the other 
> is an open forest bird and subject to very different conditions, more so here 
> in the tropics. Seasons in the tropics (just two - the Wet and the Dry) can 
> be very harsh and distinct. Even the eggs of lurida are quite noticeably 
> different in size and texture from the other two races of Boobook. If there 
> is extensive hybridisation, we have yet to be convinced. I have been 
> recording sound in September-October just as the breeding season commences 
> when birds are quite vocal and all sighted have been normal lurida. We have 
> both spent more time in those forests than most people, both by day and by 
> night, myself on Mt Lewis and John in the Wallaman area.
> I did not ask him about race boobook which seems to replace ocellata in the 
> very southern part of the Wet Tropics but the chances must be that it is 
> similar to ocellata in its breeding in these tropical areas.
> Another interesting bird from the tropics - Rogers Pipit (race rogersi of 
> Australian Pipit - Anthus australis) inhabits mostly the estuarine and saline 
> flood plains in a fairly narrow strip right across the tropics from about 
> Lakefiled NP on Cape York to NW WA. Simpson & Day show its range well. It 
> seems to be habitat specific and never seems to occur away from that habitat. 
> It is worth looking for it on Nifold Plain in Lakefield NP or Marina Plains 
> to the north-east on Cape York Peninsula where it is fairly common. When you 
> see it, you wonder what you have got - heavily spot-breasted, long-legged, a 
> different jizz from australis (more upright) and noticeably darker plumage. 
> The first time I saw it, I thought I had a vagrant species from Asia or 
> elsewhere. It does look like a distinct species but it needs someone to do 
> some work on it in the future to arrive at the correct answer.  The race 
> closest to it superficially is exiguus from the highlands of New Guinea 
> according to Schodde
  & Mason in their Directory.
> I have never seen it south of Nifold but Tony Ashton photographed a bird 
> south-east of Ingham from similar habitat a short while back, which appears 
> identical to the birds from Nifold and Marina Plains. So there could be an 
> isolated population in the Ingham area. If so, it would be an extension of 
> known range. I included it in my Wet Tropics book mostly to entice people to 
> watch for it and to create some discussion. Where one gets Zitting Cisticola 
> on the short-grassed marine plains, I would be looking for this Pipit. Their 
> habitat preference is similar.
> Another which needs to be looked at more closely is the Collared (now 
> Torresian ?) Kingfisher group (within Australia). Despite what genetics might 
> say, if the southern race colcloughi is not a different species from northern 
> sordidus I will give up birding! I haven't seen the recent paper by Anderson 
> and others but in the field colcloughi is so obviously different from the 
> tropical sordidus which inhabits the entire Wet Tropics. When I was guiding 
> 15 years and more ago, people who were familiar with southern colchloughi 
> were always amazed at the difference when first seeing sordidus. They usually 
> doubted that it was a Collared Kingfisher. When I lived behind the Gold Coast 
> in southern Queensland, one would sometimes have to look at a bird about the 
> mangroves several times to decide whether it was a Sacred or a Collared. One 
> doesn't have to do that in North Queensland where they might come together - 
> the difference is very obvious.
> Colcloughi is a much smaller and perhaps daintier (different jizz) bird with 
> a proportionate bill while sordidus is noticeable larger (contra Bergman's 
> rule), sturdier, almost lanky with a very obvious large, disproportionate 
> bill. Some males have an almost massive bill. I have played sound of 
> colcloughi in territories of sordidus without a response. However, play 
> sordidus sound within a sordidus territory and the reaction is immediate. 
> David Hollands has photographs of sordidus (taken at Innisfail) in his book 
> Kingfishers and Kookaburras. Compare them with photos of birds taken in 
> southern Queensland.
> Our race of Bassian Thrush (cuneata) also needs attebtion - another which 
> defies Bergman's rule.
> Lloyd Nielsen
> Mt Molloy  Nth Qld
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