Scientists Replay Call, Bird Last Seen in 1941 Surfaces

Jerdon's babbler spotted in Burma
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2015 1:00 PM CST
'Extinct' Bird Sings to Scientists in Burma
This image, taken in Burma in 2014, shows a not-so-extinct Jerdon's babbler.   (Robert Tizard, WCS)

Good news courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society: An apparently "extinct" bird last seen in Burma almost 75 years ago has flown back into view. The Jerdon's babbler, or Chrysomma altirostre, initially discovered in 1862, was spotted in grasslands near the town of Myitkyo in July 1941 but seemingly disappeared as people and farms invaded its habitat. Last May, however, a team of scientists studying other birds at an abandoned agricultural station near Udo heard the bird's call, National Geographic reports. They recorded it and replayed the sound, which brought a "magnificent adult Jerdon's Babbler" within sight amid patches of tall grass, the scientists write in BirdingASIA magazine. Scientists spent two days finding the small, sparrow-size bird at several sites, snapping photographs, and taking blood samples.

Scientists will now study DNA samples to determine if Burma's Jerdon's babbler is in fact a unique species. Scientists say that's a "good possibility," citing differences in the bird's coloring and song. Such a discovery would boost conservation efforts, but either way, "future work is needed to identify remaining pockets of natural grassland and develop systems for local communities to conserve and benefit from them," a WCS director says in a press release. While scientists say grassland habitats may remain in unsurveyed areas of Burma, "extensive searches using satellite imagery give us little cause for optimism." Still, a council member of the Oriental Bird Club says the fact that several birds were spotted is a "very good sign" and likely indicates "the habitat is still there." (Experts also found an "extinct" shark at a fish market.)

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