Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Description

Size: small to medium. Plumage; head often with moustacial streaks; wings long and pointed; tails medium to long. Other characters: necks short; eye large surrounded by a colourful ring of bare skin; bill short with a tooth on upper mandible; nostril round with a boney central tubercle; legs short; brood patches in both sexes.
  • Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban & K. Newman (1982). The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.
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Source: World Register of Marine Species

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Ecology

Habitat

Depth range based on 25 specimens in 12 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 7 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 9.637 - 15.876
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.239 - 7.963
  Salinity (PPS): 33.200 - 35.245
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.727 - 6.447
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.306 - 0.630
  Silicate (umol/l): 2.444 - 4.938

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 9.637 - 15.876

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.239 - 7.963

Salinity (PPS): 33.200 - 35.245

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.727 - 6.447

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.306 - 0.630

Silicate (umol/l): 2.444 - 4.938
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Associations

Known prey organisms

Falco preys on:
Mellisuga helenae

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Head kept motionless in flight: kestrel
 

The head of the kestrel remains motionless in flight due to the bird's ability to hover by facing into the wind and matching its speed.

         
  "The kestrel is a wild bird that is well-known in Europe, Asia and Africa. It has a special ability: it can maintain its head in a perfectly still position in the air by facing the wind. Though its body may sway in the wind, its head remains motionless, which increases the excellence of its vision in spite of all the motion." (Yahya 2002:56)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Harun Yahya. 2002. Design in Nature. London: Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd. 180 p.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records: 239
Specimens with Sequences: 196
Specimens with Barcodes: 180
Species: 22
Species With Barcodes: 19
Public Records: 121
Public Species: 15
Public BINs: 14
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Barcode data

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Wikipedia

Falcon

"Tercel" redirects here. For the car, see Toyota Tercel. For other uses, see Falcon (disambiguation).

A falcon (/ˈfɔːlkən, ˈfæl-/) is any one of 37 species of raptor in the genus Falco, widely distributed on all continents of the world except Antarctica.

Adult falcons have thin tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and to change direction rapidly. Fledgling falcons, in their first year of flying, have longer flight feathers, which makes their configuration more like that of a general-purpose bird such as a broadwing. This makes it easier to fly while learning the exceptional skills required to be effective hunters as adults.

The falcons are the largest genus in the Falconinae subfamily of Falconidae, which itself also includes another subfamily comprising caracaras and a few other species. All these birds kill with their beaks, utilizing a "tooth" on the side of their beak — unlike the hawks, eagles and other birds of prey in Accipitridae, which use their feet.

Peregrine falcons have been recorded diving at speeds of 200 miles per hour (320 km/h), making them the fastest-moving creatures on Earth.[1] Other falcons include the gyrfalcon, lanner falcon, and the merlin. Some small falcons with long narrow wings are called hobbies, and some which hover while hunting are called kestrels.

As is the case with many birds of prey, falcons have exceptional powers of vision; the visual acuity of one species has been measured at 2.6 times that of a normal human.[2]

The traditional term for a male falcon is tercel (British spelling) or tiercel (American spelling), from Latin tertius = third because of the belief that only one in three eggs hatched a male bird. Some sources give the etymology as deriving from the fact that a male falcon is approximately one third smaller than the female[3][4][5] (Old French tiercelet). A falcon chick, especially one reared for falconry, that is still in its downy stage is known as an eyas [6][7] (sometimes spelt eyass). The word arose by mistaken division of Old French un niais, from Latin presumed nidiscus ("nestling", from nidus = nest). The technique of hunting with trained captive birds of prey is known as falconry.

Systematics and evolution[edit]

Compared to other birds of prey, the fossil record of the falcons is not well distributed in time. The oldest fossils that are tentatively assigned to this genus are from the Late Miocene, less than 10 million years ago.[citation needed] This coincides with a period in which many modern genera of birds became recognizable in the fossil record. The falcon lineage may, however, be somewhat older than this[citation needed] and given the distribution of fossil and living Falco taxa is probably of North American, African or possibly Middle Eastern or European in origin.

Overview[edit]

Falcons are roughly divisible into three or four groups. The first contains the kestrels (probably excepting the American Kestrel);[8] usually small and stocky falcons of mainly brown upperside color and sometimes sexually dimorphic; three African species that are generally grey in color stand apart from the typical members of this group. Kestrels feed chiefly on terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates of appropriate size, such as rodents, reptiles, or insects.

The second group contains slightly larger (on average) and more elegant species, the hobbies and relatives. These birds are characterized by considerable amounts of dark slate-grey in their plumage; the malar area is nearly always black. They feed mainly on smaller birds.

Third are the peregrine falcon and its relatives: variably sized powerful birds that also have a black malar area (except some very light color morphs), and often a black cap as well. Otherwise, they are somewhat intermediate between the other groups, being chiefly medium grey with some lighter or brownish colors on the upper side. They are, on average, more delicately patterned than the hobbies and, if the hierofalcons are excluded (see below), this group typically contains species with horizontal barring on the underside. As opposed to the other groups, where tail color varies much in general but little according to evolutionary relatedness,[note 1] the tails of the large falcons are quite uniformly dark grey with rather inconspicuous black banding and small white tips, though this is probably plesiomorphic. These large Falco feed on mid-sized birds and terrestrial vertebrates.

Very similar to these, and sometimes included therein, are the four or so species of hierofalcons (literally, "hawk-falcons"). They represent taxa with, usually, more phaeomelanins, which impart reddish or brown colors, and generally more strongly patterned plumage reminiscent of hawks. Notably, their undersides have a lengthwise pattern of blotches, lines or arrowhead marks. While these three or four groups, loosely circumscribed, are an informal arrangement, they probably contain several distinct clades in their entirety. A study of mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data of some kestrels[8] identified a clade containing the common kestrel and related "malar-striped" species, to the exclusion of such taxa as the greater kestrel (which lacks a malar stripe), the lesser kestrel (which is very similar to the Common but also has no malar stripe), and the American kestrel. The latter species has a malar stripe, but its color pattern–apart from the brownish back–and notably also the black feathers behind the ear, which never occur in the true kestrels, are more reminiscent of some hobbies. The malar-striped kestrels apparently split from their relatives in the Gelasian, roughly 2.5-2 mya, and are apparently of tropical East African origin. The entire "true kestrel" group—excluding the American species—is probably a distinct and quite young clade, as also suggested by their numerous apomorphies.

Most members of the genus Falco show a tooth on the upper mandible

Other studies[9][10][11][12][13] have confirmed that the hierofalcons are a monophyletic group–and, incidentally, that hybridization is quite frequent at least in the larger falcon species. Initial studies of mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data suggested that the hierofalcons are basal among living falcons.[9][10] The discovery of a numt proved this earlier theory erroneous;[11] in reality, the hierofalcons are a rather young group, originating maybe at the same time as the start of the main kestrel radiation, about 2 million years ago. There is very little fossil history for this lineage. However, the present diversity of very recent origin suggests that this lineage may have nearly gone extinct in the recent past.[13][14]

The phylogeny and delimitations of the Peregrine and hobbies groups are more problematic. Molecular studies have only been conducted on a few species, and the morphologically ambiguous taxa have often been little researched. The morphology of the syrinx, which contributes well to resolving the overall phylogeny of the Falconidae,[15][16] is not very informative in the present genus. Nonetheless, a core group containing the Peregrine and Barbary falcons, which, in turn, group with the hierofalcons and the more distant prairie falcon (which was sometimes placed with the hierofalcons, even though it is entirely distinct biogeographically), as well as at least most of the "typical" hobbies, are confirmed to be monophyletic as suspected.[9][10]

Given that the American Falcos of today belong to the Peregrine group, or are apparently more basal species, it seems that the initially most successful evolutionary radiation was a Holarctic one that originated possibly around central Eurasia or in (northern) Africa. One or several lineages were present in North America by the Early Pliocene at latest.

The origin of today's major Falco groups—the "typical" hobbies and kestrels for example, or the peregine-hierofalcon complex, or the aplomado falcon lineage—can be quite confidently placed from the Miocene-Pliocene boundary through the Zanclean and Piacenzian and just into the Gelasian, that is from about 8 to 2.4 million years ago, when the malar-striped kestrels diversified. Some groups of falcons, such as the hierofalcon complex or the peregrine-Barbary superspecies have only evolved in more recent times; the species of the former seem to be a mere 120,000 years old or so.[13]

Species[edit]

Saker falcon, a typical hierofalcon

The sequence follows the taxonomic order of White et al. (1996),[17] except for adjustments in the kestrel sequence.

Fossil record[edit]

Several more paleosubspecies of extant species also been described; see species accounts for these.

"Sushkinia" pliocaena from the Early Pliocene of Pavlodar (Kazakhstan) appears to be a falcon of some sort. It might belong in this genus or a closely related one.[18] In any case, the genus name Sushkinia is invalid for this animal because it had already been allocated to a prehistoric dragonfly relative.

The supposed "Falco" pisanus was actually a pigeon of the genus Columba, possibly the same as Columba omnisanctorum, which, in that case, would adopt the older species name of the "falcon".[19] The Eocene fossil "Falco" falconellus (or "F." falconella) from Wyoming is a bird of uncertain affiliations, maybe a falconid, maybe not; it certainly does not belong in this genus. "Falco" readei is now considered a paleosubspecies of the Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima).

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ For example, tail color in the common and lesser kestrels is absolutely identical, yet they do not seem too closely related (Groombridge et al. 2002). On the other hand, the fox and greater kestrels can be told apart at first glance by their tail colors, but not by much else; they might be very close relatives and are probably much closer to each other than the lesser and common kestrels.
  2. ^ IZAN 45-4033: left carpometacarpus. Small species; possibly closer to kestrels than to peregrine lineage or hierofalcons, but may be more basal altogether due to its age
  3. ^ A hierofalcon (Mlíkovský 2002)? If so, probably not close to the living species, but an earlier divergence that left no descendants; might be more than one species due to large range in time and/or include common ancestor of hierofalcons and Peregrine-Barbary complex (Nittinger et al. 2005).
  4. ^ Supposedly a Saker Falcon paleosubspecies (Mlíkovský 2002), but this is not too likely due to the probable Eemian origin of that species.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Speed of Animals" in The New Book of Knowledge, Grolier Academic Reference, 2003, p. 278, ISBN 071720538X
  2. ^ Fox, R; Lehmkuhle, S.; Westendorf, D. (1976). "Falcon visual acuity". Science 192 (4236): 263–5. doi:10.1126/science.1257767. PMID 1257767. 
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "tercel". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  4. ^ "tercel". Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  5. ^ "tercel", Oxford Dictionary
  6. ^ "eyas". Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  7. ^ "Dictionary of Difficult Words – eyas". Tiscali.co.uk. 1964-09-21. Retrieved 2010-03-20. 
  8. ^ a b Groombridge, Jim J.; Jones, Carl G.; Bayes, Michelle K.; van Zyl, Anthony J.; Carrillo, José; Nichols, Richard A. & Bruford, Michael W. (2002). "A molecular phylogeny of African kestrels with reference to divergence across the Indian Ocean". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 25 (2): 267–277. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(02)00254-3. PMID 12414309. 
  9. ^ a b c Helbig, A.J.; Seibold, I.; Bednarek, W.; Brüning, H.; Gaucher, P.; Ristow, D.; Scharlau, W.; Schmidl, D. & Wink, Michael (1994): Phylogenetic relationships among falcon species (genus Falco) according to DNA sequence variation of the cytochrome b gene. In: Meyburg, B.-U. & Chancellor, R.D. (eds.): Raptor conservation today: 593–599
  10. ^ a b c Wink, Michael; Seibold, I.; Lotfikhah, F. & Bednarek, W. (1998): Molecular systematics of holarctic raptors (Order Falconiformes). In: Chancellor, R.D., Meyburg, B.-U. & Ferrero, J.J. (eds.): Holarctic Birds of Prey: 29–48. Adenex & WWGBP
  11. ^ a b Wink, Michael & Sauer-Gürth, Hedi (2000): Advances in the molecular systematics of African raptors. In: Chancellor, R.D. & Meyburg, B.-U. (eds): Raptors at Risk: 135–147. WWGBP/Hancock House, Berlin/Blaine.
  12. ^ Wink, Michael; Sauer-Gürth, Hedi; Ellis, David & Kenward, Robert (2004): Phylogenetic relationships in the Hierofalco complex (Saker-, Gyr-, Lanner-, Laggar Falcon). In: Chancellor, R.D. & Meyburg, B.-U. (eds.): Raptors Worldwide: 499–504. WWGBP, Berlin
  13. ^ a b c d Nittinger, F.; Haring, E.; Pinsker, W.; Wink, Michael & Gamauf, A. (2005). "Out of Africa? Phylogenetic relationships between Falco biarmicus and other hierofalcons (Aves Falconidae)". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 43 (4): 321–331. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2005.00326.x. 
  14. ^ Johnson, J.A.; Burnham, K.K.; Burnham, W.A.; Mindell, D.P. (2007). "Genetic structure among continental and island populations of gyrfalcons". Molecular Ecology 16 (15): 3145–3160. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03373.x. PMID 17651193. 
  15. ^ Griffiths, Carole S. (1999). "Phylogeny of the Falconidae inferred from molecular and morphological data". Auk 116 (1): 116–130. doi:10.2307/4089459. 
  16. ^ Griffiths, Carole S.; Barrowclough, George F.; Groth, Jeff G. & Mertz, Lisa (2004). "Phylogeny of the Falconidae (Aves): a comparison of the efficacy of morphological, mitochondrial, and nuclear data". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32 (1): 101–109. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.11.019. PMID 15186800. 
  17. ^ White, Clayton M.; Olsen, Penny D. & Kiff, Lloyd F. (1994): Family Falconidae. In: del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew & Sargatal, Jordi (editors): Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 2 (New World Vultures to Guineafowl): 216–275, plates 24–28. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-15-6
  18. ^ a b Becker, Jonathan J. (1987). "Revision of "Falco" ramenta Wetmore and the Neogene evolution of the Falconidae". Auk 104 (2): 270–276. 
  19. ^ a b Mlíkovský, Jirí (2002): Cenozoic Birds of the World, Part 1: Europe. Ninox Press, Prague
  20. ^ IMNH 27937. A coracoid of a Merlin-sized species. It does not seem close to F. columbarius or the Recent North American species (Becker 1987).
  21. ^ Fox Canyon Local Fauna, 4.3–4.8 million years ago: Martin, R.A.; Honey, J.G. & Pelaez-Campomanes, P. (2000): The Meade Basin Rodent Project; a progress report. Kansas Geologial Survey Open-file Report 2000-61. Paludicola 3(1): 1–32.
  22. ^ UMMP V27159, V29107, V57508-V57510, V57513/V57514[verification needed] some limb bones. Slightly smaller than a Merlin and more robust than American Kestrel, and seems not too distant from F. columbarius. Feduccia, J. Alan; Ford, Norman L. (1970). "Some birds of prey from the Upper Pliocene of Kansas". Auk 87 (4): 795–797. doi:10.2307/4083714. 
  23. ^ NNPM NAN 41-646. Almost complete left tarsometatarsus. Probably a prehistoric hobby, perhaps less specialized for bird hunting: Sobolev, D.V. (2003): Новый вид плиоценового сокола (Falconiformes, Falconidae) [A new species of Pliocene falcon (Falconiformes, Falconidae)] Vestnik zoologii 37 (6): 85–87. [Russian with English abstract]
  24. ^ Boev, Z. 1999. Falco bakalovi sp. n. - a Late Pliocene falcon (Falconidae, Aves) from Varshets (W Bulgaria). - Geologica Balcanica, 29 (1-2): 131-135.
  25. ^ Boev, Z. 2011. New fossil record of the Late Pliocene kestrel (Falco bakalovi Boev, 1999) from the type locality in Bulgaria. - Geologica Balcanica, 40 (1–3): 13–30.
  26. ^ Boev, Z. 2011. Falco bulgaricus sp. n. (Aves, Falconiformes) from the Middle Miocene of Hadzhidimovo (SW Bulgaria). – Acta zoologica bulgarica, 63 (1): 17-35.
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Kestrel

For other uses, see Kestrel (disambiguation).

The name kestrel, (from French crécerelle, derivative from crécelle i.e. ratchet) is given to several different members of the falcon genus, Falco. Kestrels are most easily distinguished by their typical hunting behaviour which is to hover at a height of around 10–20 metres (33–66 ft) over open country and swoop down on prey, usually small mammals, lizards or large insects. Other falcons are more adapted to active hunting on the wing. In addition, kestrels are notable for usually having much brown in their plumage.

Description[edit]

A juvenile American kestrel on the roof of a parked car in downtown Boston

Kestrels can fly in stationary air, even indoors in barns. While hovering they face towards any slight headwind,[1] leading to the common kestrel being called a "Windhover" in some areas.

Unusually for falcons, plumage often differs between male and female, although as is usual with monogamous raptors the female is slightly larger than the male. This allows a pair to fill different feeding niches over their home range. Kestrels are bold and have adapted well to human encroachment, nesting in buildings and hunting by major roads. Kestrels do not build their own nests, but use nests built by other species.

Most species termed kestrels appear to form a distinct clade among the falcons, as suggested by comparison of mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data [2] and morphology. This seems to have diverged from other Falco around the Miocene-Pliocene boundary (Messinian to Zanclean, or about 7–3.5 mya). The most basal "true" kestrels are three species from Africa and its surroundings which lack a malar stripe, and in one case have—like other falcons but unlike other true kestrels—large areas of grey in their wings.

Approximately during the Gelasian (Late Pliocene or Early Pleistocene, around 2.5–2 mya), the main lineage of true kestrels emerged; this contains the species characterized by a malar stripe. This too seems to have evolved in Africa and subsequently spread across the Old World until they reached Australia some time during the Middle Pleistocene, less than one million years ago. This group contains several taxa found on Indian Ocean islands. A group of three predominantly grey species from Africa and Madagascar are usually considered kestrels due to their general shape and habits, but are probably distinct from the true kestrels as outlined above.

The American kestrel is the only New World species termed "kestrel". The molecular data of Groombridge[2] as well as morphological peculiarities (like grey wings in males and a black ear-spot) and biogeography, strongly support the view that this species, among the Falco falcons, is not a kestrel at all in the phylogenetic sense but perhaps closer to the hobbies.

Malar-striped clade or common kestrel group

Basal lineage(s) of true kestrels

African grey kestrels (a more distant group)

American kestrel

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Hovering Of The Kestrel - an essay by Richard Jefferies
  2. ^ a b Groombridge, Jim J.; Jones, Carl G.; Bayes, Michelle K.; van Zyl, Anthony J.; Carrillo, José; Nichols, Richard A. & Bruford, Michael W. (2002). "A molecular phylogeny of African kestrels with reference to divergence across the Indian Ocean.". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 25 (2): 267–277. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(02)00254-3. PMID 12414309. 
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Indian Ocean kestrels

Isolated on various islands around the Indian Ocean, kestrel populations evolved into different species, like Darwin's finches. Behaviour remains similar to other small species of Falco (such as the Common Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus) except on (originally) forested Mauritius where kestrels hunt arboreally more like hawks. Due to the scarcity of mammals on oceanic islands, several species have adopted a diet containing many Phelsuma and other geckos. The species can be distinguished by coloration, but all except the Banded Kestrel share rich brown wings with black spotting. Sexes are alike in color except in the Spotted Kestrel, where differences are minor. As usual in birds of prey, females are larger than males; considerably so in some of these species as this assists resource partitioning.

Contents

Species

Two subspecies of Madagascar Kestrel, F. newtoni, are recognised, one on the main island of Madagascar and one on neighbouring Anjouan and Aldabra. It has adapted to human encroachment better than much of Madagascar's wildlife. Its diet is mainly lizards and insects. Confusingly it is sometimes referred to as the Spotted Kestrel, a name usually used for the Moluccan/Indonesian Kestrel, while the Mauritius Kestrel's scientific name literally means "spotted falcon/kestrel".

Its closest relative is the Seychelles Kestrel, F. araea. Their ancestors diverged probably less than one million years ago (roughly around the early Ionian)[1] It is the smallest of all kestrels, otherwise similar to the Madagascar Kestrel (and originally considered the same species). Its range is reduced to Mahé, with a few pairs on Silhouette Island, North Island and Praslin. Its diet is mainly lizards.[2] The species' status, as the following one's, is Vulnerable according to the IUCN.

The Mauritius Kestrel, F. punctatus, is more distantly related to the preceding two, having diverged from ancestral Madagascar region kestrels some time in the Gelasian (Groombridge et al. 2002). It is found only on Mauritius. It usually snatches arboreal prey, typically geckos or small birds. Habitat loss and DDT poisoning pushed this species to the brink of extinction, down to possibly as few as six individuals (and an even smaller effective population size) in the mid 1970s. The conservation effort was initially unsuccessful but results improved when new approaches were tried by Carl Jones in 1979. Chicks hatched at a sanctuary run by Gerald Durrell were released to new areas, and the population has now almost reached the carrying capacity of the island; intensive conservation activity has ceased for some time, with the last captive bred birds released in 1994.

The Réunion Kestrel, F. duboisi, is probably the latter species' closest known relative. It only inhabited the island of Réunion, but became extinct for reasons not entirely clear around 1700. It is only known from subfossil bones and one brief eyewitness report.

The Banded Kestrel, F. zoniventris, is also restricted to Madagascar and is less common than F. newtoni. It is found in more arid habitats. It appears to be closer to the mainland African "gray kestrels" Falco ardosiaceus and Falco dickinsoni

The Spotted Kestrel, F. moluccensis, is endemic to Indonesia. The Nankeen Kestrel, F. cenchroides, inhabits Australia and New Guinea. These seem to belong to a lineage much closer to the Common Kestrel (Groombridge et al. 2002).

Other species of Falco - for example, Sooty Falcon, Eleonora's Falcon, and the Peregrine Falcon - occur as occasional visitors in the region during migration. These are generally larger and/or entirely differently colored birds.

References

  • Groombridge, Jim J.; Jones, Carl G.; Bayes, Michelle K.; van Zyl, Anthony J.; Carrillo, José; Nichols, Richard A. & Bruford, Michael W. (2002): A molecular phylogeny of African kestrels with reference to divergence across the Indian Ocean. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 25(2): 267–277. doi:10.1016/S1055-7903(02)00254-3 (HTML abstract)

Footnotes

  1. ^ See Groombridge et al. (2002) for thorough discussion.
  2. ^ Skerrett, Adrian; Ian Bullock & Tony Disley (2001). Birds of Seychelles. London: Christopher Helm.
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