A Bird by any other Name

birding pp

Dabakan Koorliny is Noongar for ‘go slowly, walk slowly’.

The very best way to see birdlife and other fauna if you are moving through the bush. I have been teaching the Little Fellas how to walk in the bush without making too much noise. I found this to be a very natural thing to achieve when I was young.

Dare I say, a natural instinct.

Perhaps it is because I had the intention of seeing whatever nature was willing to reveal to me. Our Little Fellas however, appear to need training in the matter. But they soon got the hang of it and they had plenty of practice when we went and stayed in the forest last month. Especially when taking walks at dusk to look for night birds and marsupials.


At the risk of sounding slack, I’ve only recently started to make an endeavour to learn the current names of our local birds. I feel I need to explain that because I’ve been birdwatching since I was ten. BirdLife Australia has been increasingly active in creating a Working List of Australian Birds. This is in order to increase the consistency of our bird names nationally and also at an international level with regard to countries that share the same species. It also allows for modifications where taxonomically there have been changes in the classification of birds (species, sub-species, genus).

As I have observed through flicking through various bird books and studying field guides and birds in the environment, there are also differences on a national level. Particularly between east and west. Not so surprising given the expanse of the Nullarbor Plain and the timelessness of its existence. For example, the Red Wattlebird that frequents our garden is now, as far as defined by the list, the Western Red Wattlebird. Our little, innocuous Brown Honeyeater has been further defined also as the Western Brown Honeyeater. All very practical.

Though I’m not in favour of the Golden Whistler becoming the Western Whistler. Such a name isn’t as descriptive given this birds amazing plumage. I guess however, it was only ever going to be in danger of being labelled the Western Golden Whistler.

Western Whistler

Photo Attribution

With a change in names and classifications also comes the ability to more clearly and accurately define the conservation status of bird species, particularly those at the higher extreme which are determined as vulnerable, Near Threatened, Endangered or Critically Endangered.

Another example which stands out with this amendment to names is the Red-tailed Tropicbird. It is predominantly sub-tropical in its distribution around northern Australia, East Africa and the Pacific. There are however breeding pairs located on Sugarloaf Rock south of Cape Naturaliste in the Ngari Capes Marine Park. Probably enabled by the very generous and benevolent Leeuwin Current. As seen fit by those engaged in the matter, these are now defined as a sub-species and are now Indian Ocean Red-tailed Tropicbirds as opposed to Pacific Red-tailed Tropicbirds.

So as I get my head around the changes I will up-date my bird list for the garden in an effort to come up to speed and re-learn my bird names.

Further Reading:

Birdlife Australia

Indian Ocean Red-tailed Tropicbird


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