Every autumn, at the shoreline of the reclaimed land next to Changi Airport, waders or shorebirds come to escape the harsh winter up north. They stay a few months before returning home to breed during springtime.
Among them is a species currently called Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus). Yet on closer examination, there are two distinct looking forms of this species mingling there. In a series of papers and articles(1,2,3) in the reference section below, the story unfolds about the rediscovery of the White-faced Plovers or Swinhoe’s Plovers that winters together with the more commonly recognised Kentish Plovers. The gist of these papers (which is worth reading for background information) is that the Swinhoe’s Plovers were ‘lost’ and found again, and when carefully observed are clearly different based on morphological (shape) and behavioural ground, and that their breeding region differs as well compared to the Kentish Plovers. The articles suggest that these plovers are possibly two species.
Yet, despite these publications, the Swinhoe’s Plover is still currently regarded as a subspecies of the Kentish Plover. Why it that? And will that change in the future?
A newer paper came out in 2011 on the status of the Kentish and the Swinhoe’s Plover again4. In it, scientific evidence based on genetic analysis suggest that these two very different looking birds are too alike genetically to be considered as separate species. This is somewhat akin to how in the dog world, the Chihuahuas and St. Bernard though very different in looks, size and behaviour, are very much the same species, as the genetic material that make them different are tiny compared to what make them alike.