By Lim Kim Seng
It’s been a busy year for the Records Committee. Firstly, the Singapore Checklist has to be updated to reflect advances in knowledge about the status and distribution of wild birds in the country. Secondly, we needed to revise the checklist as changing trends are detected through regular counts and censuses of birds undertaken by members of Nature Society (Singapore) through its Bird Group. Thirdly, there has been a phenomenal growth in research on avian taxonomy that needed to be accounted for.
The first major change undertaken by the Committee was to abandon the taxonomy used in Sibley & Monroe (1990, 1993). This is because the taxonomy used was becoming dated and have not included widely accepted taxonomic studies done since then, e.g. the drongo cuckoo complex. After much discussion, the Committee decided to adopt the IOC list as the basis for its checklist, as it is widely used by the international ornithological community and is also updated regularly once new taxonomic studies have been accepted.
Some of the more recent taxonomic splits such as the Blue-and-white/Zappey’s Flycatcher and the Asian Paradise-flycatcher complexes have not been included in the present edition of the Checklist but will be evaluated in the coming months and updated into the Checklist when reviews have been completed.
In addition to the changes in the Checklist, the Committee also had to continue its task of reviewing records of rarities and potential new species submitted from 2013 to 2015. Eighteen new species were added, including seven in 2015, bringing the Singapore Checklist to 392 species.
Objectives of the Records Committee
The main objectives of the Records Committee are:
- To review new and rare (ten records or less) records for updates in the latest official checklist.
- To publish an updated checklist at regular intervals.
- To review new taxonomic studies and include them in the checklist where relevant.
To meet the above objectives, the Committee taps on the expertise of its members who have a wealth of birding experience not just in Singapore but throughout the region. The members of the 2015/2016 Committee are (in alphabetical order) Alfred Chia, Kenneth Kee, Lim Kim Chuah, Lim Kim Keang, Lim Kim Seng, Alan Owyong, Dr Frank Rheindt, Tan Gim Cheong and Yong Ding Li. In addition to the wealth of experience within the Committee, it also actively solicits advice from experts from the region and around the world, including Dr Per Alstrom, Dave Bakewell, Dr Chaiyan Kasorndorkbua, Peter Kennerley, Dr Nial Moores and Dr Philip Round.
The Committee will adopt IOC’s latest checklist (version 5.4 and any newer revisions) as the basis for nomenclature, sequence and taxonomy of species found in Singapore. It takes a pragmatic approach in accepting new taxonomic studies relating to species recorded in Singapore. Studies on proposed changes such as splits and lumps will be carried out before these are included or removed to ensure accuracy and relevance.