As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Cox's Sandpiper: the species that never was


In 1996, what was until then one of the world's rarest birds, Cox's Sandpiper, began to disappear from field guides and national lists. However, this was not another sad tale of human neglect leading to the extinction of a formerly widespread species. There was another reason the form was so rare: it was not a species at all. It was a hybrid between two well-known and widely distributed waders familiar to British birders: Curlew Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper.

The saga of Cox's Sandpiper began in 1955. The first-ever vagrant Dunlins for Australia had been claimed and accepted, particularly as the species had predicted in the past, but as up to 20 records accumulated (some more convincing than others), some of the birds were considered to look anomalous. Australian ornithologist (and English immigrant) John Cox attempted to solve the ever-growing conundrum by collecting two specimens of this clearly rare form in 1975 and 1977 for the South Australian Museum.

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