Roberts VII Species List
A 'new' southern African bird list
Some may argue that many tickers/twitchers have an unhealthy focus on lists but ornithologists and birders alike are keenly interested in systematic lists because they order our knowledge about the diversity of birds. Within southern Africa, historically there has been an ‘official’ list committee, most recently under the auspices of the Southern African Ornithological Society. However, with the deaths of its last chair, Phillip Clancey, and key members such as Richard Brooke, this committee has fallen away. As the editors of the new edition of Roberts Birds of southern Africa, we have had to draft a working list for the revised Roberts text. Assuming that the regional field guides come into line with the revised Roberts nomenclature, this list will de facto become the new list for the region.
The drafting of a revised SA list clearly has to draw upon the latest findings, in terms of new additions to the region’s avifauna through both the discovery of new vagrants/range extensions to the region and the reorganisation of species complexes within the region. The latter point is in part a consequence of the current wave of splitting that has resulted from a revision of the notion of a species (see e.g. Ryan 1997, Africa - Birds & Birding 2(6): 64-67). Many of the changes to the SA list that have occurred since the last supplement to the official SA list was published in 1991 will be familiar to birders because they are already included in the latest editions of field guides. Some other splits have occurred recently, or have been adjudged to be well supported.
This list should not be considered in any way final. Birds, like any other organisms, continue to evolve, as does our understanding of their relationships. No list can be viewed as ‘complete’ or definitive; there will continue to be further amendments. Some changes are already known, but have not been published yet because the details have not been resolved completely. These are included as ‘mega-subspecies’, which the keen birder can investigate. At a more prosaic level, we still await final input from the International Ornithological Congress (IOC) common names committee, which also has made some decisions regarding species limits within species complexes. We also have used this opportunity to incorporate international developments in the naming and ordering of birds.