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Arunachal Reveals Yet another Find – A New Bird

A bird sighted in Arunachal by two avian researchers, has been confirmed as a new species named Z.salimali, under the thrush genus Zoothera (Turdidae). It was an exciting find by Per Alstrӧm and Shashank Dalvi. The paper that documents the sighting has been published on 20th of January, in the ‘Avian Research’.

Globally, scientists have managed to document only around 15 per cent of the Earth’s species. Hundreds more are yet to be identified and researchers say that many of them could just be skirting our backyard. Despite India’s growing concrete jungle and burgeoning human population, the nation continues to surprise us by throwing up new species now and again. A case in point is a new species of thrush that was discovered in Arunachal Pradesh, nestled in lush Himalayan forests of the little explored north-eastern state.

 

Himalayan Forest Thrush Zoothera salimalii Dulongjiang, Yunnan, China, June 2014 (Photo: Per Alstrӧm)

Himalayan Forest Thrush Zoothera salimalii Dulongjiang, Yunnan, China, June 2014 (Photo: Per Alstrӧm)

 

The present study was initiated in June 2009 by Per Alstrӧm from Department of Animal Ecology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Sweden and Shashank Dalvi. A consequent discovery showed two distinct species of ‘Plain-Backed Thrush’ breeding in sympatry in Arunachal Pradesh. These were segregated by elevation and habitat, one occurring in mostly coniferous forest and the other in alpine habitats above the tree limit. Their songs were strikingly different.

 

 

The two Himalayan song types had both previously been attributed to Z. mollissima by various recordists, and they were thus described as alternative songs of this species. However, when indepth studies involving DNA sampling was conducted, a new species emerged – which was promptly named the Himalayan Forest thrush, to be scientifically referred to as Z.salimali in honor of the work done in India by the late ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali. Also specimens from 15 museums in seven countries confirmed that this indeed was a new species of Plain Backed Thrush, previously unidentified in the Indian region.

Per Alstrӧm searching for Sichuan Forest Thrush in Sichuan, China, May 2013 (Photo: Li Peng)

Per Alstrӧm searching for Sichuan Forest Thrush in Sichuan, China, May 2013 (Photo: Li Peng)

There are now three different species of Plain-Backed Thrush each with a different song, identified as the Alpine Thrush, Himalayan Forest Thrush and Sichuran Forest Thrush. According to Per Alstrӧm “The Alpine Thrush has a very distinctive harsh scratchy song, which is (at least to experienced people) very easily distinguishable from the songs of the Himalayan Forest Thrush and Sichuan Forest Thrush.

Per Alstrom at 4600 m-Meilixue Shan-Yunnan-China-May 2014-Photo Zhao Chao-2

Per Alstrom at 4600 m-Meilixue Shan, Yunnan, China, May 2014 (Photo: Zhao Chao)

 

The songs of the two latter are more similar to each other, but with practice they are clearly separable. He also added that “although the Alpine Thrush is often very confiding, the Himalayan Forest Thrush and Sichuan Forest Thrush are exceptionally shy and hard to see.Because the two forest thrush species are so hard to see, they are most easily separable by song.”

Per Alström, hoisting equipment to record the species.

Per Alström, hoisting equipment to record the species.

 

Aquaint yourself with the songs of the three species and see if you can tell the difference:

1. To hear the Himalayan Forest Thrush 

2. To hear the Alpine Forest Thrush 

 3. To hear the Sichuan Forest Thrush

Per Alstrӧm along with Shashank Dalvi and several other co-authors from China have published a paper in ‘Avian Research’, an open access journal.

 

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