More on Cape York Subspecies and Rarities

To: "" <>
Subject: More on Cape York Subspecies and Rarities
From: Lloyd Nielsen <>
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2016 00:18:00 +0000
Michael Ramsey wrote:
> Thanks Lloyd, very interesting reading. Any other subspecies that may warrant 
> specific status? Facinating area!
Thanks to all those who replied to me directly about the last posting.
Your experience with the Collared Kingfisher is interesting Tim - that
was my experience initially when I first came to North Queensland.

Yes Michael, there are a couple of others of interest worth mentioning
which I will add to the list. For anyone visiting the Wet Tropics or
Cape York Peninsula, it would be worth checking them out in case they do
make the species level at some time in the future. Also would be
interesting to hear comments and opinions from time to time about these

As Josh mentioned, the Crimson Rosella from the Wet Tropics is probably
a good candidate for a split. It certainly is different from those I
knew in southern Queensland although I have never delved into the
situation to any extent. There are the three distinct Cicidabird
populations of course which have been crying out for study for some
years. I have covered these pretty well in the book. Apart from that,
not much else in the Wet Tropics itself. Maybe the blue race (adscitus)
of Pale-headed Rosella needs looking at although rosellas are a pretty
complicated lot. I think there is a zone of hybridisation south of the
Wet Tropics? Maybe the fig-parrot here (macleayana) and the race
(marshalli) around Iron Range should be looked at.

Another possibility is the black race (melanotus) of Brown Treecreeper.
In the northern Wet Tropics it is more like a White-throated Treecreeper
in habits than a Brown (rarely ever on the ground - mostly to collect
nesting material). In this area you would separate it as a good species
without hesitation. However, there is apparently a wide zone of
internediates/hybridisation between that and Brown around the Burdekin
area - so probably best to leave it as is.

Further up Cape York Peninsula though there are a few that need some
attention. An obvious one is the purple-collared Brush-turkey - race
purpureicollis. There seems to be a very distinct dividing line between
that and the southern yellow-collared race. If you draw a line over
Musgrave Station/Roadhouse from east coast to west coast, that pretty
well divides the two poulations, purple-collared to the north.
Hybridisation seems to be rare - I know of only two instances. I think
someone may be working on that one at the moment. The purple-collared is
very common at Iron Range.

The White-bellied Crimson Finch in Lakefield NP and west is probably a
good contender for species ranking. It prefers different habitat from
the Wet Tropics race and has different habits. Overall a different bird
from the common black-bellied race around Cairns and south..

Another really fascinating bird is the race gracilis of Graceful
Honeyeater up on the northern section of the Peninsula. The most
striking thing is that it has a completely different set of calls from
the Graceful (imitatrix) of the Wet Tropics. Unlike our bird, it has a
song which it uses frequently. The Wet Tropics bird uses the single tick
call almost exclusively but just prior to the breeding season you might
hear a short musical type of call fairly similar to one of the northern
bird's calls which presumably is its song. However, that is very rarely
uttered. The bird on the Cape has a series of about 6 different calls
including song as well as the tick call. It uses the latter more or less
as a secondary call. That race is noticeably paler (more yellowish) than
the Wet Tropics race. I would like to delve further into that one and
wouldn't be surprised to come up with a distinct and good species in the
end. I spent some time quite a few years ago working out the calls of
the Cape York race and the authors accepted them into Hanzab where they
are described in detail.

The Yellow-spotted Honeyeater is slightly different up on the Peninsula
as well but probably not enough to warrant anything other than a race.

Interestingly, there is an isolated population/race of Lewin's
Honeyeater on the higher parts of the McIlwraith Range south of Iron
Range but I have not had the chance to look at that one. I would really
like to get in and have a look at it but that area is now all indigenous
land and getting access has become very difficult, almost impossible

There is the white-vented race of the Black-faced Woodswallow across the
Peninsula which has some different habits from the inland black-vented
race. However, you do find quite a few intermediate populations in
different areas.

The small race didimus of Brown Goshawk right across the tropics surely
must be given species ranking at some time. We do get the larger, darker
southern race up here in winter on rare occasions but none remain to breed.

A lot of good and dedicated work is needed on some of these birds. One
of the big disappointments for us in the Wet Tropics some years ago was
the lumping of the Lesser Sooty Owl with the Greater Sooty Owl
(Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds) on genetics alone. For
anyone knowing both birds well that lumping should never have happened.
Anyhow, I think most lists now rightly regard the Lesser Sooty as a good
and distinct species (we do) and which it is!

Lloyd Nieslen
Mt Molloy  Nth Qld

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