Bird song helped to discover a new bird species
A team of scientists from India, Sweden, China, the US and Russia have discovered a new bird species called 'the Himalayan Forest Thrush' thanks to a unique bird song. The team included Per Alstrom from the department of animal ecology in Sweden-based Uppsala University and Shashank Dalvi from the Wildlife Biology and Conservation WCS-India Programme at the Bengaluru-based National Centre of Biological Sciences.
The Himalayan Forest Thrush was discovered while studying the birds at different elevations in the mountains of western Arunachal Pradesh. They first noticed that two birds found at different elevations that were seemingly of the same species, called the Plain-backed Thrush, had two different song types.
“The one below the tree line had a beautiful song and that intrigued us. There were also physical differences such as a longer bill, shorter wings and shorter legs, but we noticed them much later. The first clue was the song,” said Dalvi. What was thought to be Plain-backed Thrush in the coniferous and mixed forest had a melodious song, but the ones found in the same area but on rocky habitats above the tree-line had a “much harsher, scratchier, unmusical song”.
Ironically, the Himalayan Forest Thrush is a very common bird in these areas. “It was hidden in plain sight. It was so similar to the Plain-backed Thrush that unless you hear the song, it is hard to make out the difference,” said Dalvi.
Studies of specimens from 15 museums in seven countries revealed consistent differences in plumage and structure between birds from these two populations. It was found that the species breeding in the forests of the eastern Himalayas had no scientific name, and so it was named "Zoothera salimalii after the late Dr Salim Ali, a prominent ornithologist who made significant contributions to ornithology in India.
Photo courtesy: Sanctuary Asia