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New Bird Species Discovered in Indonesia

Nov 25, 2014 12:04 PM EST
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A new bird species was discovered in Indonesia, but what's remarkable about this finding is that it comes 15 years after having first observing the bird in the wild, according to a new study.

This elusive animal, identified by its unique mottled throat and short wings, is called the Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa sodhii). It was first found in the forested lowlands on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, and researchers at the time mistook the bird for migratory gray-streaked flycatchers (Muscicapa griseisticta).

Since its discovery in 1997 by local villagers, sightings of the animal have evaded scientists, and they have waited years for the species to be officially confirmed as a new breed. But after researchers from Princeton University, Michigan State University and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences sought out and found the newly named Sulawesi streaked flycatcher in 2011 and 2012, they knew they had found a new species.

"Considering that 98 percent of the world's birds have been described, finding a new species is quite rare," co-author J. Berton C. Harris, from Princeton University, said in a statement. "And despite being a globally important avian hotspot, Sulawesi has largely gone unstudied by ornithologists."

In contrast to other flycatchers, M. sodhii has shorter wings, a more strongly hooked bill and a shorter tail. Its plumage also is distinct in that it has a plainer face and streaked throat. And despite its resemblance, DNA analysis shows that the bird is only distantly related to the gray-streaked flycatcher, and actually most closely resembles the Asian brown flycatcher (M. dauurica siamensis) of Thailand.

"The discovery of this previously unknown bird demonstrates once again how much we have yet to learn about the biodiversity of this planet and, especially, the biodiversity of the tropics," said researcher David Wilcove. "Birds may well be the most intensively studied class of vertebrates on Earth - with millions of birdwatchers looking for them - yet scientists are still discovering new species."

And luckily for this hardy bird, despite land development for cacao plantations in Indonesia, degrading the birds' habitat, the species is not currently at risk for extinction. Now that it has been properly identified, any future conservation efforts, if necessary, may be easier to implement to ensure the species' survival.

The study findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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