In 2012, an international research team found a new bird species on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi – Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (under its Latin name, Muscicapa sodhii). This bird has been seen several times flying about in the island’s forests since 1997, but researchers took it for another type of bird, the gray-streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa griseisticta).
On Monday, the team published an article about the discovery in the PLOS ONE scientific journal, confirming the new bird’s status, of a completely different species. Muscicapa sodhii is very different from other flycatchers nesting on the Sulawesi Island in its feathers, wings, vocalization and DNA. It has shorter wings, different color of throat feathers, totally different song, and genetics. Sulawesi streaked flycatcher seems to be more related by DNA to the brown flycatcher nesting in Asia (M. dauurica siamensis).
Surprisingly, the little streaked flycatcher was able to survive in an area of Sulawesi heavily affected by the extensive cacao plantations. Researchers say the species is not at risk of extinction, but if the deforestation continues they are not that certain anymore, since the bird currently flies on the high trees spared by the cocoa plantations’ owners.
The international research team includes researchers from Indonesia, Australia, Michigan State University and Princeton University.
Ornithologist and conservation biologist, J. Berton C. Harris PhD, said he and his team-mates were surprised to find a new bird species, since 98 % of the world’s birds had been already studied.
“Finding a new species is quite rare,”
Dr Harris added. The reason could be that Sulawesi, also renowned for its rich avian fauna, had been neglected by bird specialists.
“The discovery of this previously unknown bird demonstrates once again how much we have yet to learn about the biodiversity of this planet and, especially, the biodiversity of the tropics,”
prof. David Wilcove, Harris’ coordinator, added.
With the financial aid of the National Geographic Society, Dr Harris and the team camped for the first time on the Indonesian island in the summer of 2011 hoping to find the bird, spotted before in 1997 by some ornithologists, who thought it was a gray-streaked flycatcher.
In the summer of 2012, the team returned on the island, this time with success. They managed to capture two specimens of the species in central Sulawesi – same region where it was first spotted.
The Latin name of the newfound bird, Muscicapa sodhii, bears the name of Dr Haris’ late mentor, prof. Navjot Sodhi, highly esteemed bird specialist and ecologist.