New Bird Discovered in India

September 12, 2006

An amateur bird-watcher has found the first new bird species to be discovered in India in over 50 years.

The strikingly colored species was identified from feathers and photos taken in remote forests in the northeast part of the country.

No specimen was taken, because "we thought the bird was just too rare for one to be killed," said Ramana Athreya, the bird's discoverer, in a statement.

Named Bugun liocichla, the small bird is described as a type of babbler, a diverse family of birds that usually live in tropical forests.

The species has olive-gray body plumage, a black cap, orange-yellow eye markings, and yellow, red, and white patches on its wings.

An astronomer by trade, Ramana photographed Bugun liocichlas in the hills of the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, bordering China (India map, facts, video, and music).

Measuring 8 inches (20 centimeters) in length, the bird is named after the Bugun, a native people who live on the edge of the sanctuary.

Because the Bugun liocichla is so distinctive and doesn't appear to fear humans, experts say it must be extremely rare or it would have been discovered before now.

Ramana first spotted the species in 1995 and didn't see it again until 2005.

In May this year he returned with colleagues to the sanctuary, where they were able to net two specimens. Both were later released unharmed.

Feathers and Photographs

"With today's modern technology, we could gather all the information we needed to confirm it as a new species," Ramana said. "We took feathers and photographs, and recorded the bird's song."

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