Home Front Page Scientists make stunning discovery of bird thought to be extinct in Myanmar

Scientists make stunning discovery of bird thought to be extinct in Myanmar

A bird that scientists thought had gone extinct 70 years ago has suddenly popped up in Myanmar.

The Jerdon’s babbler — Chrysomma altirostre — had disappeared from Southeast Asia in July 1941 after being spotted near the town Myitkyo, which lies on the Sittaung River, according to a CBS News report.

Fast forward to May 2014, when conservation researchers were surveying a site near an abandoned agriculture station, and the bird was rediscovered. The research was conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Myanmar’s Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, and the National University of Singapore (NUS), according to the report.

It was the devastation of local grasslands that caused the Jerdon’s babbler to become extinct, or so scientists had thought, according ot Colin Poole, director of WCS’s Regional COnservation Hub in Singapore. The discovery suggests that not only does the species still exist, but its habitat does as well, and work will need to be done to find other pockets of grassland.

The scientists were first alerted to its presence after they heard its distinct call, prompting them to play a recording. Suddenly, they spotted an adult Jerdon’s babbler, and spent the next two days documenting more of the birds — even getting a blood sample and some photographs.

The bird was first described by a British naturalist in 1862. The bird is small and brown, and about the size of a sparrow. It was a common sight on the grasslands that once covered the area around Myanmar’s commercial capital of Yangon, but its numbers dwindled as agriculture began wiping out the grasslands.

When Myanmar was overrun by a military dictatorship in the 1960s, the country was effectively shut off from the world, and environmentalists, making observing the bird’s habitat impossible. But the country returned to civilian rule in 2010, allowing naturalists to reenter the country. The babbler wasn’t the only find: researchers have been able to discover a spoon-billed sand piper population in 2008 as well as a new monkey species in 2010.