The present study represents the third in a series of papers that seeks to re-examine the taxonomic status of avian forms described from the Socotran archipelago. It follows publica-tions concerning the population of Nubian Nightjar Caprimulgus nubicus, which was previously regarded as an endemic subspecies, jonesi (Kirwan 2004), and a re-evaluation of species limits in Golden-winged Grosbeak Rhynchostruthus socotranus (Kirwan & Grieve 2007). These notes seek to stimulate renewed interest in taxonomic studies of Socotran birds, specifically to meet the challenge set by Martins (1996), who stated: 'There is a clear need for a review of the avifauna of Socotra which reflects contemporary systematic thinking.' All originally described as species, the six allopatric groups (and nine constituent taxa) within the almost exclusively Afrotropical Rufous Sparrow Passer motitensis complex have suffered a rather checkered taxonomic history of late. Following their demotion to sub-species, this arrangement persisted through Moreau & Greenway (1962), White (1963) and Hall & Moreau (1970). Thus, despite the contrary opinions of van Someren (1922), Lynes (1926), Grant & Mackworth-Praed (1944), Bannerman (1948) and Macdonald (1957) con-cerning some or all of these taxa, it was not until Wolters (1982), who split P. insularis, from the island of Socotra, off north-east Africa, and Summers-Smith (1984, 1988), who separat-ed P. iagoensis, from the Cape Verde archipelago, at the level of species that more than one species tended to be recognised by major works. This notwithstanding the riposte of Bourne (1986) to Summers-Smith (1984) wherein Bourne could find little to recommend the advancement of iagoensis to specific status beyond the need for 'a tiresome change of name'. Thus, Sibley & Monroe (1990) recognised the following specifically: P. iagoensis, P. insu-laris, P. rufocinctus (including cordofanicus and shelleyi), from East Africa, and P. motitensis, from South Africa north to southern Angola (which arrangement was followed by Gill & Wright 2006). In contrast, Dowsett & Dowsett-Lemaire (1993), followed by Dickinson (2003) in his important world checklist, preferred to recognise just motitensis and iagoensis as species, and pointed to errors and inconsistencies in the work of Wolters and Sibley & Monroe. However, the relevant volume of the influential The birds of Africa elected to recog-nise P. shelleyi (spottily in Ethiopia and Somalia south to Kenya) and P. cordofanicus (from west-central Sudan to eastern Chad), in addition to the four taxa separated by Sibley & Monroe, specifically (Urban in Fry & Keith 2004), albeit not without criticism (Leonard & Demey 2006). Thus, in recent years, only motitensis and iagoensis have received reasonably widespread recognition as being meritorious of specific status (Cramp & Perrins 1994 and Hazevoet 1995 also afforded iagoensis such treatment). Passer [motitensis] insularis Sclater & Hartlaub, 1881, was unsurprisingly (given its abun-dance, which is currently placed at c.230,000 individuals: R. F. Porter in litt. 2007) amongst the initial wave of taxa endemic to the ancient island of Socotra to be described, following boc1282-080509:BOC Bulletin 5/9/2008 7:22 AM Page 83 the first scientific visit to the archipelago, by Sir Isaac Bayley Balfour, who spent almost seven weeks there in 1880. It was not until the considerably more extensive survey by Ogilvie-Grant & Forbes, in 1898–99, that Passer [motitensis] hemileucus Ogilvie-Grant & Forbes, 1899 (hereafter referred to as P. hemileucus), was discovered. The latter is endemic to Abd 'Al Kuri, a rather inhospitable island with no permanent running water, c.36.5 km east to west and a maximum of c.5 km north to south, which lies c.145 km west of the main island and rises to a maximum 743 m (Cheung & DeVantier 2006). Abd 'Al Kuri covers 133 km 2 , whereas Socotra is 3,625 km 2 in area. Our knowledge of insularis has increased substan-tially (see, e.g., Kirwan et al. 1996) since even the work of Summers-Smith (1988), who was able to make scarcely even the most basic comments about the bird's natural history, but hemileucus has remained a mysterious taxon known almost solely from specimens, namely the type series and seven birds collected by Alec Forbes-Watson in spring 1964. In report-ing on the latter collection, Ripley & Bond (1966), in an immense understatement, referred only to hemileucus being paler than insularis. In consequence the taxon's obvious distinctive-ness has gone unappreciated, though its describers (Ogilvie-Grant & Forbes 1899) were clearly aware of this as their manuscript makes plain (even allowing for the fact that all such novelties were then afforded species status). Summers-Smith (1988) opined that 'although paler and slightly smaller the differences are not great enough to warrant their separation from the birds on Socotra even as a different race.' Clement et al. (1993), presumably impressed by Summers-Smith's statement as to the weak distinction, simply ignored hemileucus. Urban (2004), in contrast, noted it as being 'Much paler than insularis, under-parts nearly pure white, black patch on chin of % smaller, & without dusky patch on throat', and also remarked on the overall smaller size of hemileucus (something which had not escaped, but apparently failed to impress, Summers-Smith). None of these commentators, with the exception of Dillon Ripley and Bond, appears to have examined the Forbes-Watson specimens, and it might be wondered whether the first two authors looked carefully at the, admittedly limited, material to hand in The Natural History Museum (Tring). In fact, Passer hemileucus appears as easily diagnosable as any other member of the Rufous Sparrow com-plex admitted to species status by Urban (2004).