More on Cape York Subspecies and Rarities

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Subject: More on Cape York Subspecies and Rarities
From: Martin Cake <>
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2016 08:23:34 +0000
Hi Lloyd et al

A very stimulating thread, thanks. We were in Cape York and the Wet Tropics 
recently and I agree on a lot of your comments. The Cape York form of Graceful 
Honeyeater has a completely different call that took us quite a while to work 
out what it even was. In the dawn chorus call it gave a call more like 
Green-backed that fooled us numerous times. And yes the tick call was only 
occasional. One thing I noticed as a casual observation was that birds out in 
the heaths near Portland Rd gave the tick call more frequently than the same 
birds in the Iron Range rainforest.

The Red Boobook also sounded different to me, slightly deeper and slower and 
with a slightly buzzing or scratchy quality. But then I’m used to WA birds.

The Tropical Rosella split will surely be borne out in the near future, for the 
genetics see Shipham et al (2015. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 
91:150-159. The genetics in this paper shows nigrescens is more distantly 
related to other Crimson than Green Rosella is. This creates paraphyly which 
can only be resolved by lumping Green Rosella (unlikely as it has a wide 
mitochondrial ND2 separation) or splitting Tropical. The authors were cagey in 
their conclusions suggesting more work is underway already to nail the split. 
Looking at pictures one of the key differences to me (not noted in books?) is a 
patch of black feathers (or skin??) around the eye of many but not all birds 
making it look like a pirate (‘Pirate Rosella’?). It also looks in photos at 
least to have a more robust bill perhaps. And of course the juvenile is 
completely different, black not green.

Incidentally the same paper included a limited comparison of your adscitus 
versus palliceps Pale-headeds and didn’t note anything for these subspecies 
beyond the general closeness and rather recent separation of Pale-headed and 
Northern Rosella.

On the kingfisher, I agree this sounds different but one thing that has to be 
taken into account are the species limits within what is/was the large 
‘Collared’ super-species group. Not sure if you have seen, the genetics have 
been done recently by Andersen et al (available free at ). This included one 
specimen of colcloughi and four of sordidus so a pretty small sample (but none 
of WA’s ‘pilbara'). A supplementary doc on the species limits (which I now 
cannot find on the website for some reason) stated "Further sampling is 
recommended to better understand the phylogeographic history of these forms in 
Australia”. In the phylogenetic tree colcloughi is basal, but just eyeballing 
the branch lengths it doesn’t look any more different from sordidus than the 
four samples of sordidus are from each other. From limited evidence (literally 
one specimen) this perhaps suggests the genetics wouldn’t support a split 
especially against the background of such a divergent superspecies radiation. 
But don’t give up birding just yet!

Hope I haven’t bored you with genetics talk but just wanted to point out a few 
recent papers on these.

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