Thursday, February 23, 2012

WA Endemic Subspecies - An Annotated List: Part 3: The Kimberley

This is the final of our three part annotated list of WA's endemic subspecies, covering the far north-east of the state: the Kimberley region.

So sudden is the avifaunal shift across the boundary between the Pilbara (Eyrean) and the Kimberley (Torresian) regions, with tropical groups such as lorikeets, parrots, cuckoos, kingfishers and rollers making a dramatic appearance, that Major Whitlock once described it as like “entering a new country” [5]. The rugged mountain ranges and northern plateau of the Kimberley once created a massive Pleistocene drought refuge, separated from similar escarpment country in the Northern Territory by the drier plains of the Bonaparte paleobarrier at the foot of the gulf.  That said, the last of our three lists of WA regional endemics is surprisingly the shortest. Many of these are rock-loving taxa, including the two endemic species, the iconic Black Grasswren, and the eponymous Kimberley Honeyeater, first split from White-lined Honeyeater in C&B 2008 [4]. However the Kimberley also has some very distinctive subspecies, perhaps most notably the yellow-faced race blaauwi of Partridge Pigeon, and one of the ‘Lavender-flanked’ forms of Variegated Fairy-Wren, race rogersi. The Kimberley also has a handful of mangrove-dwelling endemic subspecies, though some of these are shared with the Pilbara. A few ‘almost endemics’ cross the border to the natural barrier of the Victoria River in the NT.

For those that missed it, a handy 2-page checklist of WA endemics can be downloaded here.

Species endemic to WA - Kimberley
Black Grasswren Amytornis housei
Dusky Gerygone Gerygone tenebrosa tenebrosa (also Pilbara G. t. christophori)
Kimberley Honeyeater Meliphaga fordiana

Subspecies endemic to WA - Kimberley
White-quilled Rock Pigeon Petrophassa albipennis albipennis
Partridge Pigeon Geophaps smithii blaauwi
Rainbow Pitta Pitta iris johnstoneiana
Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti rogersi
Green-backed Gerygone Gerygone chloronotus darwini
Varied Triller Lalage leucomela macrura
Mangrove Golden Whistler Pachycephala melanura melanura (also Pilbara)
White-breasted Whistler Pachycephala lanioides lanoides
Lemon-bellied Flycatcher Microeca flavigaster tormenti
Mangrove Robin Peneonanthe pulverulenta cinereiceps (also Pilbara)
Yellow White-eye Zosterops luteus balstoni (also Pilbara)
Horsfield’s Bushlark Mirafra javanica halli

Subspecies almost endemic to WA - Kimberley (range extends into small part of adjacent NT)
Purple-crowned Fairy-Wren Malurus coronatus coronatus
White-plumed Honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatus calconi
Silver-backed Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus argenteus
Long-tailed Finch Poephila acuticauta acuticauta

Friday, February 17, 2012

WA Endemic Subspecies - An Annotated List: Part 2: The Pilbara and Arid Zone

This is the second of three checklists of bird species and subspecies endemic (or nearly so) to the state of Western Australia, featuring taxa of the Pilbara and arid zones of the state, an area more defined by what it is not – the heavily forested south-west or geologically distinct Kimberley – than what it is. This vast region comprises several geographic divisions, namely the Pilbara, Gascoyne, Mid West and Goldfields – but in biogeographic terms is usually treated as part of an even larger bioregion, the Eyrean Region covering most of central Australia,

At first glance the area seems poorly endowed with endemics. It contains only one WA endemic species, Dusky Gerygone, and even this is also found in the Kimberley. However a look at subspecies level reveals some interesting patterns of endemism:
* A cluster of subspecies centred on the Hamersley Ranges betrays their status as a drought refuge during ancient climatic fluctuations. Most notable here is the rock-loving race whitei of the Striated Grasswren, which remains a promising candidate for splitting as a full species.
* A long gap in the distribution of coastal mangroves along the length of 80 Mile Beach has apparently existed long enough to allows subspeciation in several mangrove-dwelling birds (Torresian Kingfisher, Dusky Gerygone, White-breasted Whistler), but interestingly not in others (Mangrove Golden Whistler, Yellow White-eye)
* The larger islands off the mid-west coast, namely the Abrolhos; Dirk Hartog, Bernier and Dorre Islands in the Shark Bay area; and Barrow Island, all support one or more endemic subspecies, many of them Vulnerable.
* Several endemic taxa inhabit the Nullarbor Plain, the greater part of which lies in Western Australia - most notably, Nullarbor Quail-thrush, which has very recently been resurrected as a full species.
* Finally, several species spanning the vast Eyrean interior have managed to diverge into eastern and western populations in the absence of any obvious barrier. Most important here is the recently split (and very nearly endemic) Western Quail-thrush (formerly race marginatum of Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush), but also notably ‘Western’ Whiteface castaneiventris, which has diverged quite strongly from eastern birds despite continuous distribution across the interior.

For those that missed it, a handy 2-page checklist of WA endemics can be downloaded here.

Species endemic to WA – Pilbara and Arid Zone
Dusky Gerygone Gerygone tenebrosa christophori (also in Kimberley G. t. tenebrosa)

Species almost endemic to WA - Pilbara and Arid Zone (range extends into adjacent states)
Naretha Bluebonnet Northiella narethae
Western Quail-thrush Cinclosoma marginatum

Subspecies endemic to WA – Pilbara and Arid Zone
Spinifex Pigeon Geophaps plumifera ferruginea 
Peaceful Dove Geopelia striata clelandi 
Bar-shouldered Dove Geopelia humeralis headlandi
Blue-winged Kookaburra Dacelo leachii occidentalis
Torresian Kingfisher Todiramphus sordidus pilbara

Little Corella Cacatua sanguinea westralensis
  [Pheasant Coucal Centropus phasianinus highami

Western Bowerbird Chlamydera guttata carteri
Black-tailed Treecreeper Climacteris melanura wellsi
Striated Grasswren Amytornis striatus whitei*
Western [Thick-billed] Grasswren Amytornis textilis textilis
Rufous Fieldwren Calamanthus campestris rubiginosisC. c. wayensis
White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis balstoni

Weebill Smicrornis brevirostris ochragaster
Southern Whiteface Aphelocephala leucopsis castaneiventris
Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen longirostris

Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike Coracina novaehollandiae subpallida
Mangrove Golden Whistler Pachycephala melanura melanura  (also Kimberley)
White-breasted Whistler Pachycephala lanoides carnarvoni
Mangrove Robin Peneonanthe pulverulenta cinereiceps (also Kimberley)
Horsfield’s Bushlark Mirafra javanica woodwardi
Yellow White-eye Zosterops luteus balstoni (also Kimberley)

Subspecies endemic to WA – Midwest offshore islands
Painted Button-quail Turnix varius scintillans
Lesser Noddy Anous tenuirostris melanops

White-winged Fairy-wren Malurus leucopterus leucopterus, M. l. edouardi
Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti bernieri
Southern Emu-wren Stipiturus malachurus hartogi
Rufous Fieldwren Calamanthus campestris hartogi, C. c. dorrie 

Subspecies almost endemic to WA - Pilbara and Arid Zone (range extends into adjacent states)
Galah Eolophus roseicapilla roseicapilla

Naretha Bluebonnet Northiella narethae
White-plumed Honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatus carteri

Saturday, February 11, 2012

WA Endemic Subspecies - An Annotated List: Part 1: Southwest

This is the first of three checklists of bird species and subspecies endemic (or nearly so) to the state of Western Australia. The distributions of these, for the most part, correspond approximately to the three biogeographic ‘refuge’ areas of the State (the South-west, Hamersley, and Kimberley refuges), which due to their rockier and more hilly terrain offered climatic refuge during cyclical periods of aridity throughout the Pleistocene. These refuges are, in turn, separated from each other (and those of neighbouring States) by coastward extensions of the less hospitable arid interior, namely the Nullarbor, Murchison, Canning, and Bonaparte paleo-barriers.

The South-west region has a very high level of botanical and faunal endemism, and birds are no exception – in fact with now 15 endemic full species (or 16 if you accept Western Fieldwren), South-west WA is rivalled only by far-north Queensland as an endemic bird region within Australia. What is probably less well appreciated is the high number of endemic bird subspecies in the greater South-west region, several of which are potential candidates for splitting as full species once molecular phylogenies are investigated. An even greater number are shared with South Australia’s  Eyre Peninsula, due to the former presence of a continuous belt of mallee below the Nullarbor cliffs in times of lower sea levels, which made the Nullarbor Barrier much leakier than it is today. We include some of these ‘almost endemics’ here (ie. range extends a small way into SA), but only for those subspecies which do not - according to Schodde and Mason’s distribution maps [1] - extend fully into the Eyre Peninsula itself.

A handy two-page Checklist of WA’s endemics is available - collect em’ all!

Updated Feb 2017, IOC 7.1

Species endemic to WA – Southwest
Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus latirostris
Baudin’s Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus baudinii
Western Corella Cacatua pastinator pastinator, C. p. derbyi

Red-capped Parrot Purpureicephalus spurius
Western Rosella Platycercus icterotis icterotis, P. i. xanthogenys 
Western Ground Parrot Pezoporus flaviventris
Noisy Scrub-bird Atrichornis clamosus
Red-winged Fairy-Wren Malurus elegans
Western Spinebill Acanthorhynchus superciliosus 

Gilbert's Honeyeater Melithreptus chloropsis
Western Wattlebird Anthochaera lunulata 
Western Bristlebird Dasyornis longirostris
  [Western Fieldwren Calamanthus (campestris) montanellus]
Western Thornbill Acanthiza inornata
White-breasted Robin Eopsaltria georgiana
Red-eared Firetail Stagonopleura oculata

Species ALMOST endemic to WA – Southwest
Western Whistler Pachycephala occidentalis

Subspecies endemic to WA – Southwest
Cape Barren Goose Cereopsis novaehollandiae grisea

Musk Duck Biziura lobata lobata
Little Shearwater Puffinus assimilis tunneyi
Australasian Swamphen Porphyrio melanotus bellus
  [Lewin’s Rail Lewinia pectoralis clelandi  - EXTINCT]

Brush Bronzewing Phaps elegant occidentalis
Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii naso
Regent Parrot Polytelis anthopeplus anthopeplus (westralensis)
Australian Ringneck Barnardius zonarius semitorquatus  
Elegant Parrot Neophema elegans carteri

Rock Parrot Neophema petrophila petrophila
Splendid Fairy-wren Malurus splendens splendens
Southern Emu-wren  Stipiturus malachurus westernensis
  [Rufous Bristlebird Dasyornis broadbenti litoralis – EXTINCT (?)]
New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiae longirostris
White-cheeked Honeyeater Phylidonyris nigra gouldii*
Yellow-throated Miner Manorina flavigula obscura

Shy Heathwren Hylacola cauta whitlocki
White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis maculatus
Western Gerygone Gerygone fusca fusca
White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus superciliosus ashbyi
Western Whipbird Psophodes nigrogularis nigrogularis 
Copperback Quail-Thrush Cinclosoma clarum fordianum
Crested Shrike-tit Falcunculus frontatus leucogaster*

Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen dorsalis
Grey Fantail Rhipidura albiscapa preissi (also Pilbara)
Scarlet Robin Petroica boodang campbelli **
Western Yellow Robin Eopsaltria griseogularis griseogularis
Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena carteri (also Pilbara)

Little Grassbird Megalurus gramineus thomasi

Subspecies almost endemic to WA – Southwest (extends into small part of neighbouring SA)
Singing Honeyeater Lichenostomus virescens virescens
Yellow-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza chrysorrhoa chrysorrhoa 

Black-faced Woodswallow Artamus cinereus cinereus
Grey Currawong Streptera versicolor plumbea
Australian Raven Corvus coronoides perplexus**
Australian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus australis gouldi (also Pilbara)
Silvereye Zosterops lateralis chloronotus 
Australasian Pipit Anthus australis bilbali

For Australian listers - Introduced species established only in WA
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Mute Swan Cygnus olor

(* = possible future splits)