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Rare new species of flycatcher discovered in Indonesia

According to ornithologists, about 98 percent of all bird species have been identified. So, it is a rare event when a new one is discovered.

It took 15 years, but ornitholgists have now proclaimed that a little flycatcher spotted in 1997 in the forested lowlands of Sulawesi, Indonesia, is a new bird species. It is named the Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher, or Musciapa sodhii.

When a group of ornithologists first observed the little flycatcher in 1997, they noted that it looked somewhat different from other regional flycatchers but assumed it was the rather common Gray Streaked Flycatcher, according to a report by Audubon Magazine.

A couple of years later, ornithologist Ben King published his suspicion that the bird could not be a Gray Streaked Flycatcher, but ten years past before a group of scientists from Princeton University and Washington State University decided to put the mystery to rest.

The team traveled to Sulawesi to find the mystery bird and collect samples for the lab.

“It took us two field work seasons and over a week of camping in a cacao plantation with remnant forest trees before we even saw one, so it is a scarce and very inconspicuous species,” said team member Pamela Rasmussen, in the Audubon Magazine report.

Then the real work began.

To confirm that the bird belonged to a hitherto undocumented species, the researchers had to carefully analyze its bodily structure, plumage, and song. They also performed a genetic analysis. All showed that the Sulawesi flycatcher was a new species.

The Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher has a hooked beak, stubby wings, and a streaked throat. Its throat patterns are what mainly distinguish this flycatcher from others in the region.

DNA analysis showed that the Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher is more closely related to the Asian Brown Flycatcher indigenous to Thailand, than to the Gray Streaked Flycatcher for which it first was mistaken.

The researchers describe their discovery in the Nov. 24 issue of the open-access journal PLOS ONE.