June 26, 2013
New Bird Species Discovered In Cambodian Capitol
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
To discover new species, scientists often travel to the most remote jungle or the deepest ocean crevasse. However, conservationists recently spotted a new species simply strolling around the streets of Cambodia’s busy capital city, according to a report in the journal Forktail.
Dubbed the Cambodian tailorbird, or Orthotomus chaktomuk, the formerly undescribed species was spotted in the bustling metropolis of Phnom Penh, and a number of other nearby locations just outside the city. According to the conservationists who described it, the tailorbird is one of only two bird species unique to Cambodia. The other, the Cambodian laughing thrush, is found only in the more remote Cardamom Mountains.
Marked by distinct plumage and loud call, the Cambodian tailorbird is a wren-sized grey bird with a rust-colored cap and black throat feathers. It appears to prefer the dense lowland scrub in Cambodia’s capital and the surrounding area, the researchers said.
Report author Simon Mahood of Wildlife Conservation Society began investigating the birds when his WCS colleague and report co-author Ashish John took photographs of what they first thought was a similar, coastal species of tailorbird. After initially being unable to properly identify the bird, the investigators determined that it was an entirely unknown species.
"The modern discovery of an un-described bird species within the limits of a large populous city – not to mention 30 minutes from my home – is extraordinary," said Mahood. "The discovery indicates that new species of birds may still be found in familiar and unexpected locations."
Part of its scientific name, chaktomuk, is an old word from the country’s Khmer language meaning four-faces. It refers to the area where the bird is found: around Phnom Penh where the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac Rivers come together.
Only a small amount of the bird’s favored scrub plants are still found in Phnom Penh, but larger areas of brush remain outside the city where the Cambodian Tailorbird is more abundant. The scientists from the WCS and other organizations that discovered the birds say their habitat is declining and advise that the species be classified as ‘near threatened’ under the IUCN's Red List.
The discovery of the Cambodian tailorbird continues a recent trend involving the sharp rise in the number of newly described bird species emerging from Indochina over the past couple decades, credited to the exploration of the region’s more remote areas. Other newly described birds include the bizarre bare-faced bulbul and the Mekong wagtail.
"This discovery (of the Cambodian tailorbird) is one of several from Indochina in recent years, underscoring the region's global importance for bird conservation,” said co-author Colin Poole, Director of WCS Singapore.
"Most newly discovered bird species in recent years have proved to be threatened with extinction or of conservation concern, highlighting the crisis facing the planet's biodiversity,” added co-author Jonathan C. Eames of BirdLife International.
"Asia contains a spectacular concentration of bird life, but is also under sharply increasing threats ranging from large scale development projects to illegal hunting,” said Steve Zack, WCS Coordinator of Bird Conservation. “Further work is needed to better understand the distribution and ecology of this exciting newly described species to determine its conservation needs."