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Once 'Extinct' Bird Rediscovered in Myanmar

Mar 06, 2015 12:11 PM EST
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A bird species long thought to be extinct has now been rediscovered in Myanmar, and it seems to be alive and well, according to new research.

Jerdon's babbler, or Chrysomma altirostre, had not been seen in Myanmar since 1941, where it was found in grasslands near the town of Myitkyo, Bago Region near the Sittaung River. But now, the bird is seemingly getting a second chance at life.

The research team, from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Myanmar's Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division - MOECAF, and the National University of Singapore (NUS), actually rediscovered the Jerdon's babbler back in May 2014 while surveying a site around an abandoned agricultural station that still contained some grassland habitat. They heard the bird's distinct call and recorded it, and over the next 48 hours were lucky enough to find several more of the birds at different locations in the area.

British naturalist T. C. Jerdon first identified the small brown bird, which is about the size of a house sparrow, in January 1862 in grassy plains near Thayetmyo. Although it was common at the beginning of the 20th century, agriculture and human development replaced most of its grassland habitat, which made many believe that the subspecies of the Jerdon's babbler became extinct.

The Jerdon's Babbler in Myanmar is currently considered as one of three subspecies found in the Indus, Bhramaputra, and Ayeyarwady River basins in South Asia.

To better understand the diversity of this particular subspecies, researchers took DNA samples of the bird.

"Our sound recordings indicate that there may be pronounced bioacoustic differences between the Myanmar subspecies and those further west, and genetic data may well confirm the distinctness of the Myanmar population," researcher Frank Rheindt from the NUS said in a statement.

Currently, scientists are studying DNA samples to see whether or not the Jerdon's babbler should be considered a full species or simply a subspecies. However, if it is indeed its own species, exclusive to Myanmar, that could spell trouble for this bird. Its fragmented and threatened habitat pose a significant danger to the species, and could possibly push the Jerdon's babbler into extinction once and for all.

The exciting rediscovery is detailed in Birding Asia, the journal of the Oriental Bird Club.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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