Ornithologists announce discovery of a new bird species

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Washington, March 15 : Ornithologists have announced the discovery of a new species of bird called the Togian white-eye, in the Togian Islands of Indonesia.

Though it's referred to as a "White eye", the eye of the new bird isn't ringed in a band of white feathers like its cousins who flock in other remote tropical islands of Indonesia.

"Still, it has many features in common with the black-crowned white-eye Zosterops atrifrons of Sulawesi, which is clearly its closest relative," said MSU's (Michigan State University) Pamela Rasmussen, an ornithologist specializing in Asian birds.

The Togian white-eye first was spotted by Mochamad Indrawan, an Indonesian field biologist at the Depok Campus of the University of Indonesia, and Sunarto, 12 years ago during their first trip to the Togian Islands.

Those first sightings were fleeting, but Indrawan and Sunarto returned and made several more observations of these little green colored birds, and obtained the type specimen upon which the species' description is now founded.

The type specimen was then sent on loan to Rasmussen at the MSU Museum, so she could make detailed comparisons between it and related species at museums such as Britain's Natural History Museum, the American Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Institution.

Rasmussen noted that the Togian white-eye is distinctive not only in appearance, but its lilting song, which Indrawan recorded and Rasmussen committed to sonogram, sounds higher pitched and is less varied in pitch than its close relatives.

But, the new bird is believed to be endangered.

The white-eye has been seen only near the coasts of three small islands of the Togian Islands in central Sulawesi. Unlike most white-eye species, it is evidently quite uncommon even in its very limited range. Considering its limited numbers and distribution, it falls into the World Conservation Union category of endangered.

"What this discovery highlights is that in some parts of the world there are still virtually unexplored islands where few ornithologists have worked," said Rasmussen. "The world still holds avian surprises for us," she added.

According to Indrawan, "This finding of the bird is only the beginning given the vast opportunities with Indonesian landscapes and seascapes of endemic flora and fauna."

ANI

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