Lost bird is found: Large-billed Reed-warbler

I find it exciting to see a bird I haven’t seen for some time, like the Restless Flycatcher that came to visit our garden recently.

It is even more exciting to see a rare bird, one that is not very common or even perhaps one on the endangered list. About the only one in that category is when I saw a small group of Black Eared Miners at Gluepot Bird Reserve in 2005.

Even more satisfying is to see a new bird, sometimes called a “lifer” because it is the first time you have ever seen that species.

Imagine then, the excitement of finding a bird that hasn’t been seen for 139 years. I just can’t imagine the feeling. Well – it has happened twice in six months, in different places but with the same species.

Ornithologists across the world are celebrating with the news that a wetland bird that has eluded scientists ever since its discovery in India in 1867 has been refound. Twice.

The Large-billed Reed-warbler is the world’s least known bird. A single bird was collected in the Sutlej Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India, in 1867, but many had questioned whether it was indeed represented a true species and wasn’t just an aberrant individual of a common species.

But on 27 March 2006, ornithologist Philip Round, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, Mahidol University, was bird ringing (banding) at a wastewater treatment centre (the royally initiated Laem Phak Bia Environmental Research and Development Project) near Bangkok, Thailand.

But that is not the end of the story. In a bizarre twist, another one was found – this time a specimen in a museum.

But, in a further twist to this remarkable tale, six months after the rediscovery, another Large-billed Reed-warbler specimen was discovered in the collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring, in a drawer of Blyth’s Reed-warblers (Acrocephalus dumetorum) collected in India during the 19th Century. Once again, Professor Staffan Bensch confirmed the identification using DNA.

“Finding one Large-billed Reed-warbler after 139 years was remarkable, finding a second—right under ornithologists’ noses for that length of time—is nothing short of a miracle,” said Butchart.

This just goes to show that amazing discoveries are still being made.

Now – I wonder what amazing birds will turn up in my garden?

To read the full story click here.


2 Responses to “Lost bird is found: Large-billed Reed-warbler”

  1. nickupton says:

    This is the second time that Phil has rediscovered a species in Thailand that was presumed extinct. The first was Gurney’s Pitta. Phil kindly allowed me to reproduce his two photos of the warbler and a picture of the location of capture here; http://www.thaibirding.com/news/news_lbreedwarbler.htm

  2. Trevor says:

    Hi there Nick. Thanks for that extra information. I was not aware of that fact. I just can’t imagine how exciting it would be to rediscover a “lost” species of bird, but finding two of them is what dreams are made of.

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