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The way living organisms are classified into families, species, subspecies etc. is called biological taxonomy, and it is a complex field. Taxonomy is important – how different populations are lumped together, or if they are distinct enough to split helps us to identify threatened species and so conserve them. Taxonomists continue to explore genetic, physiological, and morphological evidence to tease apart the relationships between our birds. But differences in how quickly these findings are accepted (or discounted) means that varying organisations may be using different bird lists to recognise species.
Recognising the important function of accurate and current bird lists, BirdLife Australia in conjunction with partners, has developed the Working List of Australian Birds (WLAB). The list is multi-functional:
- The WLAB provides regular, considered and comprehensive taxonomic updates for all known Australian bird species and subspecies following a practical and long-standing taxonomic approach.
- The list includes up-to-date conservation assessments (based on The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010 and subsequent updates from the BirdLife Australia Threatened Species Committee).
- It defines all birds that are listed in our primary piece of national protective legislation — the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.
- It takes an ultrataxon approach ensuring data integrity in an age of large taxonomic change. This means that we will always have the best detail of bird data to assist us with threatened bird recovery programs, which are conducted at both species and subspecies levels.
- The WLAB also preserves BirdLife Australia’s long established tradition of providing consistent, practical nomenclature for Australian bird species – under the auspices of the BirdLife Australia English Names Committee, thus ensuring the immeasurably valuable social capital associated with our birds is protected.
More information on taxonomy, bird names, and the Working List of Australian Birds can be found here.