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Michael,

You last comment was most helpful in this discussion I've tried to provoke - 
that birders concentrate on the "parts" while science concentrates on the 
"process." This suggests to me that the alignment of birding with the 
science of taxonomy is trying to align apples and pears - the purpose is 
fundamentally different.

It seems to me that a North American Bird List built upon recognizable forms 
could accomplish both. If our list has all recognizable forms with their 
agreed upon subspecies names, then we have regularized the process and 
stabilized the list. For example we have Green-winged Teal (A.c.crecca) and 
Eurasian Teal (A.c.carolinensis). If the taxonomists split them, we just 
make name adjustments. If a new sub-species meets the criteria of 
recognizable form, we can add it. We wouldn't be divorcing birding from 
science; we would just be admitting that we have different purposes and are 
doing different work.

If splits occur that are not recognizable, we don't have to alter the list. 
For example, right now everyone seems to be staying away from the Red 
Crossbill issue - potentially this single species is 8 or 9 species by many 
criteria. But some can only be confidently identified by analysis of audio 
recordings of call notes - not in most minds a recognizable field form.

Chris Petrak
South Newfane, VT
Tails of Birding - www.tailsofbirding.net





----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Blust" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 9:29 AM
Subject: Re: [VTBIRD] taxonomy


>I agree that it is best to try to align the birding approach with the
> science of taxonomy.  And it has been recognized in this discussion that
> there is uncertainty in taxonomy.  But I still get the sense that
> birders get frustrated at the taxonomists.  As I always emphasize to my
> students, don't blame the scientists for the complexity and variation
> that is part of nature!  It is the process of evolution that leads to
> nice discrete "species" in some cases and not in others.  I like to use
> the analogy of silly-putty which under some conditions snaps apart into
> two discrete pieces, and under other conditions the two pieces stay
> connected by threads.  The word "species" is a human convenience which
> helps us understand part of nature.  There is no definition of species,
> no matter how complicated, which works for everything.  In fact, biology
> text books present at least a half-dozen definitions which are used
> depending on what taxon you are working with and what aspect of the
> taxon you are interested in. It was with difficulty that I came to
> accept that I can't always equate an individual organism with a
> "species".  Birders concentrate primarily on the "parts" of nature.
> Science works more with the "process".  Evolution is a process which
> constantly changes the parts.
>
> That may not answer any questions, but hopefully it will add some
> perspective for those who are less familiar with why these questions
> exist.
>
> Michael Blust
> Professor of Biology
> Green Mountain College
> Poultney, VT   05764
> 802-287-8331    [log in to unmask]
> --------------------------------------
> Good things come to those who wade!
>