Complete bird checklist
By Nick Askew, Sun, 28/06/2009 - 12:10
BirdLife International maintains its own complete checklist of birds (taxonomic checklist of the world's bird species) because there are so many different global, regional, national, site and family taxonomic checklists, and the current major phase of taxonomic revision requires BirdLife to track and evaluate new arrangements as they are proposed; thus there is an urgent and sustained need to resolve the taxonomic rank of many taxa. In undertaking this work, BirdLife does not pretend to be an authority on the taxonomic status of the world’s birds (and indeed does not have the resources or aspiration to become this) but rather seeks to set a globally consistent taxonomic standard relevant to establishing conservation priorities through, for example, identifying globally threatened bird species, Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) and Important Bird Areas (IBAs). BirdLife’s guiding principles are:
- Application of the Biological Species Concept. BirdLife accepts that a considerable percentage of the global avifauna, notably in Asia, requires reassessment as a result of being ‘over lumped’, but does not adopt the Phylogenetic Species Concept (PSC). This is partly because there is no agreed, standard world list based on the PSC and it may be many years before there will be one, and partly because BirdLife is unpersuaded by some of the underlying concepts and arguments.
- A relatively conservative approach. BirdLife aims for consistent global treatment through its adoption of selected taxonomic sources, association with various taxonomic processes and committees, and through its own review process, and therefore is unlikely to adopt radical new arrangements if these use criteria inconsistent with treatments elsewhere in the world.
- A pragmatic approach. BirdLife accepts that its checklist will never be fully internally consistent because of regional differences in taxonomic efforts, and also because of the time and resources necessary to achieve this. Therefore BirdLife prioritises its taxonomic work by focusing on those taxa or regions where important conservation implications exist.