New species/Rediscoveries

Aves de Peru

Friday March 19, 2010 was a day of bird history for Peruvian ornithology and birdwatching.

The book Birds of Peru by Schulenberg et al was published in Spanish and presented during a full day of lectures and build up to the final presentation of the book in which Environmental Minister Antonio Brack Egg was present. Key lectures were held mostly in Spanish by the original authors Tom Schulenberg, Dan Lane, John O’Neill and Doug Stotz. All made tribute to legendary Ted Parker who laid the foundation to the idea of a field guide to the birds of Peru.


Having a birdbook in Spanish will make ornithology and birding in Peru explode. Specifically, shall it become an incentive for locals to learn about birds to show to visiting birdwatchers. Hoards of new birding guides will make Peru more prepared for the increasing avi-tourism. But also more Peruvians will find birdwatching as a hobby more rewarding with this book. Finally, the book incentivates more biologists being formed with prime interest in birds. This will take Peruvian ornithology to a new level followed by a stream of publications in scientific journals.


I could unfortunately only be present during the first part of the day, so I missed a lot of good lectures and presentations but three particular mentions have to be made, as they involve new species to Peru. In total 4 new species to Peru were mentioned within two hours. Colombia best watch out for the number one position of most species in the world.

Reddish Egret and White-winged Coot – New birds to Peru

Tom Schulenberg was first out mentioning that new species can be found also along the coast of Peru in spite being relatively well covered by ornithologists and birders. The main reason is because there traditionally is less activity in the field during the Austral summer (Dec-February).

Two extra-ordinary new records were mentioned. Marshall Iliff’s White morph Reddish Egret south of Chiclayo a couple of weeks ago and White-winged Coot found at Mejia lagoons in the South during last part of 2009. The coot was still present there during a survey in February.

New Thrush in Peru

New Thrush in Peru

Dan Lane dedicated his full speach to the “gray-tailed form of Hauxwell’s Thrush” which turns out to be a good species, which certainly was indicated in the first edition of Birds of Peru. What comes as a complete surprise is that the form is not at all closely related to Hauxwell’s Thrush. A phylogenetic tree was presented showing the New Thrush being closest relative with the Ecuadorian Thrush and Bare-faced Thrush – and other thrushes that share a cat-like call. It is quite amazing that the call could show this much genetic relationship within Oscine passerines, in which the song is learnt. It seems some calls may nevertheless be genetically defined. The paper describing the new thrush is submitted, so we can soon expect the thrush being officially described. An important parenthesis is that the new thrush was the 11th bird that John O’Neill collected in Peru outside of Pucallpa. Since then he has described 13 species. It turns out his 14th new species described was actually his first new species to science! Dan also showed distribution maps showing that the distribution of the new Thrush is quite widespread along the upper Amazon and its tributaries and at many sites sympatric with Hauxwell’s Trush. Me thinks this will not be the last time a cryptic species will be described from the Peru.

Another Barbet – again.

John O’Neill held his lecture in English and with Spanish translation. He presented all the birds he has been involved in describing as new species. One of the most spectacular was the Scarlet-banded Barbet in the Cushabatay, Cordillera Azul area. In fact, the expedion had wanted to reach the main Cordillera Azul and the highest peak, but had to settle for the slightly lower, but closer Cushabatay area since the river held very little water.

Remote areas do still turn up new birds. During a recent expedition further south in the Sira Range and the Gran Pajonal a new Barbet was once again found. Clearly it is closely related as it is similar in colors but have bright red-flanks. This new Barbet intrigues me. I have some time free in July to go and look for it. Any takers?

Photo credits. Reddish Egret. Copywright. Marshall Iliff.
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A bird without a name

Spectacled Flower Pecker from Borneo. Photograph: Richard Webster of <a href=This is quite remarkable! A seemingly totally new species discovered at the well birding Borneo RainForest Lodge. Richard Webster spotted a unknown bird feeding in a mistle-toe in the canopy while walking the 250m canopy walk some 35 m above the ground. He took some pictures, which later were sent to Dr. David Edwards – a specialist at Leeds University, who realized that there are no birds in the bird collections that fits to the photos. Furthermore Edwards had studied the birds of the undergrowth in the same area extensively, why the new bird is possibly a canopy specialist.

I’ll let you enjoy the full article in David P. Edwards, Richard E. Webster, Rose Ann Rowlett. ‘Spectacled Flowerpecker’: a species new to science discovered in Borneo?. BirdingASIA 12 (2009): 38–41

Birding Asia is a great magazine for anyone interested in the birds of the region. Not only great. It is essential. And Oriental Bird Club supports a number of conservation projects. If you your not a member of Oriental Bird Club, please consider becoming one now!

I found several things remarkable with this discovery.

  • A new species found in a well birded area!
  • The description is made and letting the world know, before  the species has been scientifically described. There is no specimen – only photographs – and the discoverers have chosen to share their finding, both to alert that there may be specimens mislabeled in collections and that proper scientific collected specimen could/should be secured after proper permits have been attained.
  • If you follow standard listing rules – you can’t count it, because it still lacks a formal name. Isn’t it time birders set their own rules as a community. (Will be treating this issue in one of the last posts of the Social Media For birders Workshop.
  • With shouting out this discovery, it also shows that there is so much to discover and that the destruction of rain forest may be faster than new species can be described. Maybe this fast treatment will set a standard for other discoveries in the future. I am not saying they should not be properly collected. Only that the birders can help collect important information if the secrecy of new discoveries are avoided. I don’t think anyone would try to scoop the authors and describe the species on their own when a specimen is obtained.  That someone would look awfully silly and get the disrespect from the whole scientific community and the birders combined.
  • It’s seems to be a canopy specialist. Maybe dependant on the fruit of mistletoe.

Excellent done! And congratulations Richard Webster, David Edwards and Rose Anne Rowlett

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The Jamaican Petrel, is it extinct or alive?

Winds Jamaica Nov 13 - Too slow winds for Petrels?

Winds Jamaica Nov 13 - Too slow winds for Petrels?

I am pleased to be allowed to report on Hadoram Shirihai’s expeditions of the seven seas in search of lost seabirds.

Here is the last update from Jamaica, from the upcoming search for Jamaica Petrel. Background About Jamaica Petrel can be found on Birdlife internationals Data Zone pages and the announcement of the gadfly expeditions.

Nov 13, 2009.  Hadoram writes:

The expedition will start in few days, all is ready, the boat and the two ton chum etc

The image above is the ocean/wind pattern between Jamaica and Cuba for at least the first week of the expedition, perhaps a bit too calm for petrels, so I hope for stronger wind, we will see…

Best regards,


Here are some related posts where Hadoram’s explorations have been featured.

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Extreme Gadfly Petrel Expeditions

The recently rediscovered Beck's Petrel, in the Bismarcks, PNG. Photo: Hadoram Shirihai © Copyright, Tubenoses Project

The recently rediscovered Beck's Petrel, in the Bismarcks, PNG. Photo: Hadoram Shirihai © Copyright, Tubenoses Project

Readers of this blog may remember an interview with Tony Pym and Hadoram Shirihai regarding the first photographs of Fiji Petrel. Hadoram is aiming high with the tubenose project and the forthcoming book, that yet more lost seabirds shall be found.  And what is more, you can join him.


The following challenging pelagic expeditions are being organised as part of the on-going Tubenoses Project (Shirihai, H. & Bretagnolle, V. In prep. Illus. by Cox J. Albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters of the world: a handbook to their taxonomy, identification, ecology and conservation, A & C Black, London), and represent an effort to collect further data on the identification, variation, distribution and population sizes of some of the least known petrels on the planet.

The expeditions listed below are non-commercial pelagic voyages with all participants, including the organisers, equally sharing the costs of chartering the vessels. The expeditions will be conducted in a similar manner to recent voyages that led to the rediscovery of Beck’s Petrel Pterodroma becki in 2007 in the Bismarck archipelago (Shirihai 2008), and the first pelagic observations of Zino’s Petrel Pterodroma madeira in April 2009, off Madeira (Shirihai 2009), and Fiji Petrel Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi, off Gau Island, Fiji (Shirihai et al. 2009).

The first photographically documented and confirmed at-sea record of the Fiji Petrel, off Gau, Fiji. Photo: Hadoram Shirihai © Copyright, Tubenoses Project

The first photographically documented and confirmed at-sea record of the Fiji Petrel, off Gau, Fiji. Photo: Hadoram Shirihai © Copyright, Tubenoses Project

Up-coming expeditions (2009):

(1) Search for the Jamaican Petrel (presumed extinct) off Jamaica:

This voyage will run from 17th November to 1st December 2009, using a fast ocean-going boat. Depending on the weather conditions, we will spend 7 to 10 days at sea off Jamaica.

The Jamaican Petrel had been described to science, when it promptly disappeared; its last confirmed record was in 1891, almost two decades after mongooses were believed introduced onto the main island of Jamaica. Hopes remain that a tiny population of Jamaican Petrels still survive in the extensive tracts of suitable forest habitat. Moreover, mongooses have not prevented Black-capped Petrels from breeding in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Several attempts have been made over the last decades to find the Jamaican Petrel on land, specifically in the Blue Mountains, without success.  None of these expeditions have searched at sea, a proven strategy as described above.

In preparation for this expedition, HS visited Jamaica (March-April 2009) to see habitats that might support a population of breeding petrels, and also viewed the breeding habitat of Black-capped Petrels in the Dominican Republic. HS and Vincent Bretagnolle have made a geographical survey (using satellite image maps and marine charts) and have analysed meteorological data for the region; parameters that contributed to the successful studies of Beck’s, Zino’s and Fiji Petrels at sea. From this analysis, a very specific oceanic corridor has been proposed that might be used by any Jamaican Petrels travelling to and from the island.

The plan is to intensively search this area and to use 1.5 tons of chum that will be prepared by our ground team and a local fish factory. The material will be kept aboard ship in dedicated freezers.

For logistical reasons, there is room for only 4 expedition members and currently there is only one spot available; the expedition share is US$7000.

Please contact HS at to sign on, or for further information about the voyage, its plans and conditions.

(2) Search for the recently rediscovered Vanuatu Petrel in the remote Banks Group:

This two-week voyage, 13th to the 28th December 2009, will use a 72ft. expedition research vessel sailing out of the port of Santo, Vanuatu.

The Vanuatu Petrel Pterodroma occulta was collected in January 1927, by Rollo Beck (Whitney South Sea Expedition), though it was overlooked as a White-necked Petrel P. cervicalisuntil Imber and Tennyson (2001) drew attention to the fact that the specimens were distinctly smaller and represented an unrecognised species. Since then an additional specimen was found ashore in eastern Australia in 1983. The first at-sea record was of a bird observed by HS in January 2006 between New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Then in 2007, two/three birds were sighted off southern Vanuatu. There is recent evidence (still unpublished) that suggests a breeding population on at least one island in Vanuatu.

In December 2009 we shall try to obtain further data on this population, both at sea and on several islands in the remote Banks group. Dr. Vincent Bretagnolle, Dr. Orian Shirihai and HS are the organisers of this expedition. Besides studying petrels and other seabirds, the expedition will seek out some of the landbirds of the islands and also study tribal customs of the indigenous islanders, including the use of alternative medicines.

Only 7 expedition members can be accommodated on the vessel, the remaining space will be occupied by a set of huge freezers that will store two tons of chum for use during the planned mass chumming operations.

To date there are 5 on board, and two more are welcome, at US$7000 per person. This rate will be discounted for students and those from conservation bodies to US$5000 per person.

Please contact directly HS at to sign up, or for further information about the voyage plans and conditions.

Expeditions planned for 2010 & 2011:

Further information on the following will be posted nearer the times:


The first photographically documented at-sea record of the Zino's Petrel, off Madeira, Portugal. Photo: Hadoram Shirihai © Copyright, Tubenoses Project

The first photographically documented at-sea record of the Zino's Petrel, off Madeira, Portugal. Photo: Hadoram Shirihai © Copyright, Tubenoses Project

Off Madeira: To study Zino’s Petrel at sea, 20th-30th June (with Hadoram Shirihai & Tony Pym, and the organisation of Madeira Wind Birds).

Guadalupe Islands, Mexico: In search of the (believed extinct) Guadalupe Storm Petrel, March 2010 or 2011, with Hadoram Shirihai.


Chatham Islands: In search of the Magenta Pterodroma magentaeand Chatham Island Petrel P. axillaris (tentatively scheduled for Dec), and most of the local land-bird endemics. With Tony Pym & Hadoram Shirihai. For further information please contact Tony (

Juan Fernández archipelago, Chile: For the three endemic eastern tropical Pacific Pterodroma (during Nov-Dec), namely Juan Fernandez Petrel Pterodroma externa, Stejneger’s Petrel Pterodroma longirostris and Defilippi’s Petrel Pterodroma defilippiana; with the organisation and co-leadership of Ross Wanless (and Hadoram Shirihai for the work on petrels at sea). We will also endeavour to see the landbird endemics. For further information please contact Ross (

Eastern Tropical Pacific off Peru: To study storm petrels (tentatively Jan 2011), with Hadoram Shirihai, and with the organisation of Gunnar Engblom (Kolibri Expeditions). For further information please contact Gunnar (

Off Reunion, Indian Ocean: Seeking field knowledge on the poorly known Mascarene Petrel Pseudobulweria aterrimawith Tony Pym and Hadoram Shirihai (expedition dates to be announced).

Regular updates on these expeditions will be posted on Seabird-News (Angus Wilson and/or Tony Pym), Facebook group Pelagics – Seabirds Worldwide and on this Gunnar Engblom’s (Kolibri Expeditions) blog.


Brooke, M. 2004. Albatrosses and petrels across the world. Oxford Univ. Press.

Imber, M. J.  and Tennyson, A. J. D. 2001. A new petrel species (Procellariidae) from the south-west Pacific. Emu 101, 123–127.

Shirihai, H. Rediscovery of Beck’s Petrel Pseudobulweria becki, and other observations of tubenoses from the Bismarck archipelago, Papua New Guinea. Bull. B.O.C. 2008 128(1).

Shirihai, H. 2009. The Zino’s Petrel at sea expedition II – and the best pelagic birding in the Western Palearctic. Birding World 22: 204-218.

Shirihai, H., Pym, T., Kretzschmar, J., Moce K., Taukei, A. & Watling D. First observations of Fiji Petrel Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi at sea: off Gau Island, Fiji, in May  2009. Bull. B.O.C. 2009. 3: 129-148.

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Recent photos and specimens of a crow confirmed to be Critically Threatened Banggai Crow

Banggai Crow (Corvus unicolor) rediscovered. Photo: Phelippe Verbelen

Banggai Crow (Corvus unicolor) rediscovered. Photo: Phelippe Verbelen

It is fascinating that new discoveries are made in this day and age in the ornithological world. An article published today in Life Sciences as well as adiscussion on BirdForum confirms that Pamela C. Rasmussen at Michigan State University has verified that the specimens and photographs taken by local biologist Mohamad Indrawan in 2007/8 on the Indonesian island Peleng are indeed the critically threatened Banggai Crow which was lost since 1900.  It has made public and official only today, because it had to be confirmed that there was no confusion with the more common all black subspecies of Slender-billed Crow (Corvus enca).

Dr Rasmussen explains:

The morphometric analysis I did shows that all four unicolor specimens are very similar to each other, and distinctly different from enca specimens. We also showed that the two taxa differ in eye color — an important feature in Corvus. Not only did this confirm the identity of the new specimens but also the specific distinctness of Corvus unicolor, which has long been in doubt.

Mohamad Indrawan, now concentrates on conservation of the species and its habitat. He calculates the population to be around 500 birds. Maybe birding tourism could help. Anyone want to go? Kolibri Expeditions forthcoming tours will also include Asian destinations!

The original press release featured also some bio about Pamela Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, who also is assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology at the MSU Museum, is the author of the two-volume Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Her work on uncovering the ornithological frauds of British collector Col. Richard Meinertzhagen won international attention, detailed in Nature, the May 2006 The New Yorker, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007.

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