25 February 2008

Haven't we done well

Thanks to a query on the GOS website, I compared the taxonomic approach to large white-headed gulls in 'Seabirds' and Clements yesterday. Jeeeez, poor old Harrison, thanks to all the tinkering over the last two decades page 338 is looking a little tired to say the least.

rrrritzbew,... rrrritzbew,... rrrritzbew

If you avoid taking into consideration all the intervening stages, the nigh total re-classification of the 'Herring Gull' complex looks rather brutal. How dare these birds keep evolving like this? More to the point, how dare these taxonomists keep coming up with new ways to produce phylogenies?

rrrreeea,... ritzbew,... rrrreeea,... ritzbew

Just in case you were wondering how the shifting sands of gull classification would look if someone had too much time on their hands and decided to illustrate the changes in the form of a flow-charty-type-thing (and then write a particularly long sentence about it), click on the pic below (NB. those taxa marked with an asterisk either don't 'exist' today, or didn't 'exist' in 1985; and those in bold type have occurred in the UK). I should point out that the Clements approach is not the be all and end all; you might prefer to nestle smithsonianus alongside vegae, or cachinnans with barabensis (and armenicus?), you may still pine for taimyrensis or even omissus.

chebik,... chebik,... chebik

PS. Knowing all the scientific names does not make you clever or even a good birder, it does make it a helluva lot easier to have a conversation about seagulls though.

whit,... whit,... whit,... whit

PPS. Does anyone else find it difficult to type whilst listening to Empidonax flycatchers on the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs (Western Region)?


Weekend Birder said...

Cracking chart.What the hell is a Taimyrensis.

Darryl said...

Thanks, it took me minutes and minutes to do that. 'Taimyrensis' is thought to be an intergrade between heuglini and vegae, it breeds in that bit of northern Siberia that abuts the Kara Sea (i.e. where heuglini and vegae meet). NB. From the rather insular perspective of the UK birder, heuglini and 'taimyrensis' border on the unidentifiable, it would probably take a colour-ringed bird from a breeding colony to get acceptance on the British list (as per fuscus Lesser Black-backed). On the subject of which, when are the county recorders going to get together and chuck out the old sight records of fuscus?