Article

Standardising English names for Australian bird subspecies as a conservation tool

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Abstract

Over the last 25 years subspecies have become an important unit of bird conservation in Australia. Some have evocative common English names which have allowed the subspecies to be vested with meaning among conservation advocates, evoking feelings of concern, loyalty and affection. This suggests that providing subspecies with stable English names can allow development of a ‘brand’ among those in need of conservation action. Also, since scientific names often change with knowledge of taxonomic relationships among birds, a stable list of standardised English names for all species and subspecies can minimise confusion and ambiguity among the public and in legislation. Here we present the arguments for creating a standardised list of English names for Australian bird subspecies and set out principles for formulating subspecies names, along with a list of the names themselves, with the aim of building the general public’s attachment to subspecies, increasing interest in their conservation and as subjects of research.

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... This is not correct. Australian Wood Duck is the agreed common name in Australia for this Australian endemic species (Christidis & Boles 2008, Ehmke et al. 2018, BirdLife Australia 2019 and has been since the mid-1990s when members of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union and other ornithological societies were asked to vote on a selection of (contentious) common names for Australian birds (Higgins 1995). Since this time, all major Australian field guides use Australian Wood Duck (Morcombe 2004, Slater et al. 2009, Simpson & Day 2010, Pizzey & Knight 2012, Menkhorst et al. 2017 and it is this name that is used by governments, NGOs and scientists. ...
... As Choudhury (2020) notes, common names that have local currency are important for public recognition and conservation (see also Recher 2017, Ehmke et al. 2018. Considering the parlous state of so many of the world's birds (BirdLife International 2018), names with local currency are important. ...
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In BirdingASIA 33, Choudhury (2020) made the case for the continued use of the common name White-winged Wood Duck for Asarcornis scutulata (as opposed to White-winged Duck used by international bird lists), due to longstanding usage of that name in the countries in which it occurs. In discussing some of the challenges with the use of White-winged Wood Duck, he noted that there were several other ‘wood ducks’, and stated, ‘However, the name Australian Wood Duck is now seldom used for Chenonetta jubata, for which the name Maned Duck is now generally accepted’. This is not correct. Australian Wood Duck is the agreed common name in Australia for this Australian endemic species. This situation is not to discredit Choudhury’s (2020) argument for the use of White-winged Wood Duck. To the contrary, it highlights that there are already multiple species with common names that include ‘wood duck’ and this should not inhibit the use of White-winged Wood Duck for Asarcornis scutulata. It also highlights the disconnect between international lists of common bird names and local usage for some species.
... Yet, there is far more to be done in according them the respect and sanctity they deserve. Researchers are caught in a perpetual race to standardise folk names for plants and animals, so as to avoid the confusion caused by multiple folk names used to denote the same taxon (Armstrong and Villet 2019;Ehmke et al. 2018;Eisenmann and Poor 1946;Phaka 2020;Phaka et al. 2019;Masski and Ait Hammou 2016). The mandate to provide unambiguous methods of classifying and naming flora and fauna, however, is best served by the formal systems of classifications (Rao 2004). ...
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Biocultural diversity refers to the dynamic interrelationship between the Earth’s biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity. The concept draws strength from the fact that biodiversity-rich regions of the world are also rich in cultural and linguistic diversities. This volume adds to scholarship in biocultural diversity with case studies from geographical Southeast Asia. The chapters presented in the volume, based on research in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Northeast India demonstrate i) how traditional ecological calendars and calendar keepers serve as repositories of knowledge on landscapes and their resources, ii) the importance of folk medicine for healthcare in contemporary Southeast Asia, and iii) how folk names of flora and fauna serve as condensed forms of traditional knowledge on biodiversity. While highlighting the importance of customary ways of knowing and categorizing the environment in areas such as resource management, conservation, and healthcare, the chapters also demonstrate that traditional environmental knowledge and the practical skills which accompany it are not necessarily widely shared and are under constant threat. As Southeast Asia marches forward in pursuit of economic growth, it would also have to ensure that its biocultural diversity stays alive, nurturing local communities for generations to come.
... A welcome change from past Action Plans is the use of full common/English names for subspecies to reflect the current use for so many of these taxa (see Ehmke et al. 2018). In past Action Plans, the South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne, for example, would have been listed as 'Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo (south-east)'. ...
... When a species has more than one common name, it can fragment conservation attention (Ladle et al., 2016), or in cases when there is confusion over what name matches with what organism, vernaculars may hinder conservation support (Jarić et al., 2016). Further, names themselves carry negative and positive connotations (Karaffa et al., 2012;Ehmke et al., 2018). These issues are exacerbated when species names are used as product names (called theronyms), or when cultures create new meanings for animal names to represent concepts that are completely different (called homonyms) (Jarić et al., 2016;Ladle et al., 2016). ...
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Noise is the non-target search results that people encounter when searching for a particular topic of interest; it is also the cloud of distracting data that can obscure or deflect conservation communication. Online noise associated with large carnivores is particularly dense because their defining characteristics make them salient. Mountain lions ( Puma concolor ) exemplify noise associated with multiple vernaculars for a species in the crosshairs of conservation conundrums. We compared internet search results, Google Trends reflecting topic interest, use in science publications and sentiment in print and online media for P. concolor 's most frequent vernacular names, “mountain lion,” “cougar,” “puma” and “Florida panther.” Puma and panther exhibited greater noise and salience than cougar or mountain lion, but, results for mountain lion, followed by cougar, yielded the highest biological relevance. Online sentiment negatively correlated with biological relevance, with positive sentiment highest for the noisiest vernaculars, puma and panther. As conservation practitioners, we must recognize that public outreach is part of our scientific agenda and be conscious of crafting communication that reaches and resonates with our intended audiences.
... For example, the name of the Hitler beetle (Anophtalmus hitleri), a species described from Slovenian caves in the 1930s (Scheibel, 1937), has promoted the interest of amateur collectors, which has in turn led the species to a threatened status (Khalaf, 2010). In some cases, the words 'rat', 'wild', 'stray', or 'killer' in its common name are less likely to receive positive human attention and support for conservation (Karaffa, Draheim & Parsons, 2012;Ehmke, Fitzsimons & Garnett, 2018). However, in certain cases (e.g. ...
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... This is a common practice among hunted species, as unique phenotypes are accorded special status within trophy organizations (Palazy et al. 2012). Labeling subspecies with evocative common names can raise public attention for these taxa, as it has been proposed for Australian bird subspecies (Ehmke et al. 2017). The re-assessment of widespread species for critical subspecies will boost the local and regional efforts to conserve unique populations (including unique alleles) from loss within the widespread species; which will benefit international conservation efforts. ...
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Species endangerment, as determined by the national and international authorities, are crucial in conservation decisions at local and regional scales. While species are the priority unit of conservation, the subspecies of widespread species are often neglected in conservation planning and research, irrespective of their unique genetic identity. Peripheral populations of widespread species are often isolated and endangered while their status on the IUCN Red List is considered as ‘Least Concern’. We advocate for the evaluation of widespread polytypic species, and to recognize the importance of assessing intraspecific populations that are distinct from the distribution of widespread species.
... I am also bemused by the rigidity of the rules of nomenclature as they apply to scientific names and the move to bestow a unique 'English' (and I presume French, Russian, and Tibetan) name on every bird known to science and then some. This includes the current move to uniquely name subspecies of Australian birds (Ehmke et al. 2017) regardless of how cumbersome these names become or even whether the subspecies in question can be distinguished in the field. Just wrap your tongue around such proposals as the 'Western Wheatbelt Rufous Fieldwren' or the 'Large-billed Leaf Warbler'. ...
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... The ways in which the public tends to interact with birds and their general lack of knowledge about threatened bird taxa (particularly subspecies, e.g. Ehmke et al. 2017) means they may value some non-threatened bird taxa more highly than threatened taxa, because of greater familiarity with them (Wilson and Tisdell 2005;Tisdell et al. 2006;Garnett et al. In revision). ...
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An emotional version of Sapir-Whorf hypothesis suggests that differences in language emotionalities influence differences among cultures no less than conceptual differences. Conceptual contents of languages and cultures to significant extent are determined by words and their semantic differences; these could be borrowed among languages and exchanged among cultures. Emotional differences, as suggested in the paper, are related to grammar and mostly cannot be borrowed. The paper considers conceptual and emotional mechanisms of language along with their role in the mind and cultural evolution. Language evolution from primordial undifferentiated animal cries is discussed: while conceptual contents increase, emotional reduced. Neural mechanisms of these processes are suggested as well as their mathematical models: the knowledge instinct, the dual model connecting language and cognition, neural modeling fields. Mathematical results are related to cognitive science, linguistics, and psychology. Experimental evidence and theoretical arguments are discussed. Dynamics of the hierarchy-heterarchy of human minds and cultures is formulated using mean-field approach and approximate equations are obtained. The knowledge instinct operating in the mind heterarchy leads to mechanisms of differentiation and synthesis determining ontological development and cultural evolution. These mathematical models identify three types of cultures: "conceptual" pragmatic cultures in which emotionality of language is reduced and differentiation overtakes synthesis resulting in fast evolution at the price of uncertainty of values, self doubts, and internal crises; "traditional-emotional" cultures where differentiation lags behind synthesis, resulting in cultural stability at the price of stagnation; and "multi-cultural" societies combining fast cultural evolution and stability. Unsolved problems and future theoretical and experimental directions are discussed.
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The U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) allows listing of subspecies and other groupings below the rank of species. This provides the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service with a means to target the most critical unit in need of conservation. Although roughly one-quarter of listed taxa are subspecies, these management agencies are hindered by uncertainties about taxonomic standards during listing or delisting activities. In a review of taxonomic publications and societies, we found few subspecies lists and none that stated standardized criteria for determining subspecific taxa. Lack of criteria is attributed to a centuries-old debate over species and subspecies concepts. Nevertheless, the critical need to resolve this debate for ESA listings led us to propose that minimal biological criteria to define disjunct subspecies (legally or taxonomically) should include the discreteness and significance criteria of distinct population segments (as defined under the ESA). Our subspecies criteria are in stark contrast to that proposed by supporters of the phylogenetic species concept and provide a clear distinction between species and subspecies. Efforts to eliminate or reduce ambiguity associated with subspecies-level classifications will assist with ESA listing decisions. Thus, we urge professional taxonomic societies to publish and periodically update peer-reviewed species and subspecies lists. This effort must be paralleled throughout the world for efficient taxonomic conservation to take place.
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Australian Bird Names is aimed at anyone with an interest in birds, words, or the history of Australian biology and bird-watching. It discusses common and scientific names of every Australian bird, to tease out the meanings, which may be useful, useless or downright misleading! The authors examine every species: its often many-and-varied common names, its full scientific name, with derivation, translation and a guide to pronunciation. Stories behind the name are included, as well as relevant aspects of biology, conservation and history. Original descriptions, translated by the authors, have been sourced for many species. As well as being a book about names this is a book about the history of ever-developing understandings of birds, about the people who contributed and, most of all, about the birds themselves. 2013 Whitley Award Commendation for Zoological Resource.
Book
Recent classifications of Australian birds have been limited to lists of "species" which are inadequate as biodiversity indicators. The Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines fills a huge gap in ornithological knowledge by separating out and listing not only 340 species of song-birds but also the 720 distinct regional forms. Covering about half the national bird fauna, the Directory provides science and the community with baseline information about what bird it is and where it lives in an Australia-wide context. Identity is taken down to the level of distinct regional population. No other compendium on Australian birds does this.
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The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010 is the third in a series of action plans that have been produced at the start of each decade. The book analyses the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status of all the species and subspecies of Australia's birds, including those of the offshore territories. For each bird the size and trend in their population and distribution has been analysed using the latest iteration of IUCN Red List Criteria to determine their risk of extinction. The book also provides an account of all those species and subspecies that are or are likely to be extinct. The result is the most authoritative account yet of the status of Australia's birds. In this completely revised edition each account covers not only the 2010 status but provides a retrospective assessment of the status in 1990 and 2000 based on current knowledge, taxonomic revisions and changes to the IUCN criteria, and then reasons why the status of some taxa has changed over the last two decades. Maps have been created specifically for the Action Plan based on vetted data drawn from the records of Birds Australia, its members and its partners in many government departments. This is not a book of lost causes. It is a call for action to keep the extraordinary biodiversity we have inherited and pass the legacy to our children. 2012 Whitley Award Commendation for Zoological Resource.
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This revised edition includes details of 50 new species discovered since the original edition was published. The guide is divided into four chapters: evolution, taxonomy and zoogeography of frogs; biology of frogs; the Australian frogs; and collecting, keeping and photographing frogs. Chapter 3 presents ecological notes, distribution maps, photographs and identification keys to the five families represented in Australia. -L.E.Evans
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Little is known of the breeding behaviour of the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii naso (FRTBC), a large, iconic forest cockatoo, endemic to the south-west corner of Western Australia, currently listed as Vulnerable under the State Western Australian Wildlife Conservation Act and under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. In this paper, we provide details of breeding behaviour of FRTBC based on observations throughout the year over 17 years, together with observations of diet and feeding behaviour over the same period. FRTBC are monogamous hollow-nesters. Breeding was recorded in all months, with peaks in autumn-winter (April- June) and spring (August-October), with few records in January and February. Breeding also varied between years, with little breeding in 1999, 2001 and 2008, but many observations in 2006 and 2009. Breeding occurred at times of fruiting of either of the principal feed trees, Jarrah Eucalyptus marginata or Marri Corymbia calophylla, so it does not depend solely on one or the other of these species. Courtship displays were noted at all times of the day, from before dawn at roost sites to dusk. In total, 205 breeding events were recorded, of which 69 (93%) of 72 nests had breeding confirmed on a second visit. Use of particular nest hollows varied considerably, with some used only once and some up to seven times. Only one egg is laid, which the female incubates for 29 to 31 days, before a nestling hatches weighing between 27 and 32 g. The female remains in the hollow during incubation and only leaves for a short period in the evening to be fed by the male, usually at dusk. The chicks are brooded for up to 10 days, after which the female leaves the nest between dawn and dusk. Pairs of birds appear to recognise each other by calls, not responding to calls by others in the area. Chicks only respond when the parent is heard. Chicks are fully feathered at 48 days. Fledgling success was estimated at 60%. Juveniles remain dependent on the adults 18 months to 2 years. Thirty-seven chicks were banded between 1997 and 2011. Juvenile-immature birds moved on average less than 3 km from their natal tree and older birds were observed moving up to 19 km. This suggests that FRTBC are generally sedentary. Immature birds took up to three times as long as their parents to open Jarrah or Marri nuts and eat the seeds. In recent years there has been an interesting change in foraging behaviour of birds in the northern Darling Range (adjacent to the Perth metropolitan area) with the FRTBC discovering and using a new food source, the introduced Cape Lilac Melia azedarach, and this species is of growing importance as food in the Perth region. In combination, the data on breeding biology and diet highlight the importance of identifying recruitment rates and food availability in managing populations of FRTBC.
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The Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was an international landmark in commitment to biodiversity - a new term that the politicians readily accepted to mean all organisms, including the tiny and obscure. The resulting Biodiversity Convention was a major breakthrough for invertebrate conservation. It radically reduced the time and energy needed to convince others that invertebrates were worthy of conservation attention; now bugs were 'wildlife' as well. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. All rights are reserved.
Book
Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds presents an up-to-date classification of Australian birds. Building on the authors’ 1994 book, The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories, it incorporates the extensive volume of relevant systematic work since then. The findings of these studies are summarised and evaluated in the explanations for the taxonomic treatments adopted, and with the extensive citations, the book serves as a comprehensive introduction to the recent systematic literature of Australian birds. All species of birds that have been recorded from the Australian mainland, Tasmania, island territories and surrounding waters are treated and listed. Along with extant native species, all accepted vagrants, recently extinct (since 1800) native species and established introduced species are included.
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Are rates of evolution and speciation fastest where diversity is greatest - the tropics? A commonly accepted theory links the latitudinal diversity gradient to a speciation pump model whereby the tropics produce species at a faster rate than extra-tropical regions. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Botero et al. () test the speciation pump model using subspecies richness patterns for more than 9000 species of birds and mammals as a proxy for incipient speciation opportunity. Rather than using latitudinal centroids, the authors investigate the role of various environmental correlates of latitude as drivers of subspecies richness. Their key finding points to environmental harshness as a positive predictor of subspecies richness. The authors link high subspecies richness in environmental harsh areas to increased opportunities for geographic range fragmentation and/or faster rates of trait evolution as drivers of incipient speciation. Because environmental harshness generally increases with latitude, these results suggest that opportunity for incipient speciation is lowest where species richness is highest. The authors interpret this finding as incompatible with the view of the tropics as a cradle of diversity. Their results are consistent with a growing body of evidence that reproductive isolation and speciation occur fastest at high latitudes. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Article
The Capricorn Yellow Chat (Meliphagidae: Epthianura crocea macgregori) is a poorly known, endangered passerine of coastal north-eastern Australian wetlands. Recent research has highlighted the need for evidence based management and that recovery programmes may be hampered by a lack of sound ecological knowledge. Capricorn Yellow Chats were found at 15 sites near Rockhampton between Broad Sound and the Fitzroy River delta in the south. Overall, suitable habitat was limited with an area occupied of about 6 000 ha, confirming the need for careful management. Habitat may be typified as grass-sedge wetlands or tall supratidal saltmarshes that are temporarily flooded, with pools becoming brackish to hypersaline as they dry. Over 96% of sightings were on coastal plains formed by marine sedimentation processes, most without current tidal influence, and many less than 5 m above sea level. The remaining 4% were associated with alluvial-formed plains, but only where these bordered existing marine plain sites; suggesting a preference for marine plain habitats, possibly reflecting structural differences and foraging preferences (marine plains tend to be more open due to the presence of salt-tolerant samphire vegetation). Sea level rise was identified as a major threat to the subspecies with chat sightings at most sites averaging less than 2 m above current highest astronomical tidal influence, and sites becoming tidal or with regular storm surge influence under future modest predicted sea level rise scenarios of 0.5 m by 2100. Most sites had some form of banking to reduce tidal influence and promote freshwater pasture grasses for cattle production. The site supporting most chats had small banks that allowed floods to flow around them, maintaining connectivity with the downstream marine systems. This study contributes to baseline information essential to the evaluation of any future management interventions; thus avoiding the pitfalls hampering much of the global conservation efforts directed at threatened species.
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Approximately 1,000 English-language names have been used for African primates. Grubb et al. (2003) chose a single common name for each species (with a few exceptions) and for each subspecies. The present paper provides the opportunity to compare these preferred names with others published in the literature. The aim is to encourage primatologists to evaluate the choice of names, to assess the principles adopted in compiling the selective list, to amend this list where they see fi t, preferably in appropriate publications, and to comment on the whole exercise.
Article
Species are the fundamental units of biology, ecology and conservation, and progress in these fields is therefore hampered by widespread taxonomic bias and uncertainty. Numerous operational techniques based on molecular or phenotypic data have been designed to overcome this problem, yet existing procedures remain subjective or inconsistent, particularly when applying the biological species concept. We address this issue by developing quantitative methods for a classic technique in systematic zoology, namely the use of divergence between undisputed sympatric species as a yardstick for assessing the taxonomic status of allopatric forms. We calculated mean levels of differentiation in multiple phenotypic characters – including biometrics, plumage and voice – for 58 sympatric or parapatric species-pairs from 29 avian families. We then used estimates of mean divergence to develop criteria for species delimitation based on data-driven thresholds. Preliminary tests show that these criteria result in relatively few changes to avian taxonomy in Europe, yet are capable of extensive reassignment of species limits in poorly known tropical regions. While we recognize that species limits are in many cases inherently arbitrary, we argue that our system can be applied to the global avifauna to deliver taxonomic decisions with a high level of objectivity, consistency and transparency.
Article
We examined cytochrome b sequence data to resolve the intraspecific taxonomy of ground parrots Pezoporus wallicus. The species occurs in fragmented coastal heaths in south-eastern and south-western Australia. Net nucleotide divergences among all eastern populations were very low (0.0–0.6%) and genetic diversity unstructured, suggesting relatively recent common ancestry. Gene flow among them was probably maintained via land bridges and the persistence of suitable habitat during the Pleistocene. In contrast, net nucleotide divergence was high (4.4–5.1%) between western and eastern populations, suggesting more ancient divergence about 2million years ago. The magnitude of divergence between eastern and western lineages is similar to a wide range of avian congeners. Our data support the need to reconsider the intraspecific taxonomy of ground parrots, and we cautiously suggest the recognition of Western Ground Parrots as a species, P. flaviventris, for conservation prioritization, planning and management purposes. Given their recent precipitous decline to approximately 110 individuals, most of which occur at one location, this makes Western Ground Parrots one of the world’s most threatened bird species. KeywordsGround parrot–Cryptic species–Critically endangered
Article
Patterns of evolution are believed to vary latitudinally, but our understanding of this variation remains limited. Here we examine how patterns of subspecific diversification vary within species of birds, specifically addressing three questions: (1) Are subspecies more numerous at lower latitudes within species, consistent with greater phenotypic differentiation at lower latitudes? (2) If there are more subspecies at lower latitudes within species, can area of breeding range explain this relationship? and (3) how do latitudinal differences in subspecies within species vary geographically across the globe? Using all species with five or more subspecies from 12 of the most diverse families of birds in the world, we found consistently more subspecies at lower latitudes across all families, both hemispheres, and all continents examined. Despite the positive influence of area on the number of subspecies within species, area did not explain the greater number of subspecies at lower latitudes within species. Global patterns of subspecies support the idea that phenotypic differentiation of populations is greater at lower latitudes within species. If subspecies density provides an index of rates of incipient speciation, then our results support evolutionary hypotheses for the latitudinal diversity gradient that invoke higher tropical speciation rates.
Standardising the common names of Australian bats – an update
  • Armstrong
Armstrong, K. and Reardon, T. (2006) Standardising the common names of Australian batsan update. Australasian Bat Soc. Newsl. 26: 37-42.
An index of Australian bird names
CSIRO (1969) An index of Australian bird names. Canberra, Australia: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
The BirdLife checklist of the birds of the world, with conservation status and taxonomic sources. Version 5. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International
  • Australia Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia: BirdLife Australia. <www.birdlife.org.au/taxonomy>. BirdLife International (2012) The BirdLife checklist of the birds of the world, with conservation status and taxonomic sources. Version 5. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. <http://www.birdlife.info/ im/species/checklist.zip>. Boon, W. M., Daugherty, C. H. and Chambers, G. K. (2001) The Norfolk Island Green Parrot and New Caledonian Red-crowned Parakeet are distinct species. Emu 101: 113-121.
Birdata [web application]. Carlton, Australia: BirdLife Australia
Birdata (2016) Birdata [web application]. Carlton, Australia: BirdLife Australia. <http://birdata.birdlife.org.au>.