Bird Presumed To Be Extinct Since 1940’s Spotted In Myanmar

Robert Tizard / WCS

Species are currently dying at such an alarming rate, some scientists have warned that we are on the verge of the sixth mass extinction in our planet’s history. It often seems like most conservation news is bad, which makes definite good news feel that much better. A species of bird has been spotted in Myanmar that has not been seen since 1941, and was presumed to have gone extinct. The re-discovery of the species was described in the journal BirdingASIA.

Chrysomma altirostre, better known as Jerdon’s babbler, used to be common in the Myanmar grasslands. This habitat was eventually changed as houses and farmland took over the grass, and there hasn’t been a confirmed sighting of the species since the onset of World War II. 

"The degradation of these vast grasslands had led many to consider this subspecies of Jerdon's Babbler extinct,” Colin Poole of the World Conservation Society’s Singapore hub said in a press release. “This discovery not only proves that the species still exists in Myanmar but that the habitat can still be found as well. Future work is needed to identify remaining pockets of natural grassland and develop systems for local communities to conserve and benefit from them."

Image credit: Robert Tizard / WCS

The small brown bird was rediscovered in May 2014 when a group of scientists in the region recognized its call. The team was able to verify the bird’s identity through recordings of the call, blood samples, and photographs. Information collected during this time was compared to existing populations of other closely related species. It is not currently known whether this bird is actually a subspecies, or its own distinctive species. Future testing will guide the ultimate distinction. 

"Our sound recordings indicate that there may be pronounced bioacoustic differences between the Myanmar subspecies and those further west, and genetic data may well confirm the distinctness of the Myanmar population,” explained lead author Frank Rheindt of the National University of Singapore.

Moving forward, the researchers hope to resolve the true phylogenetic place of Jerdon's babbler and increase the body of knowledge for all birds in the region that are experiencing declining levels of avian biodiversity due to extensive habitat destruction.

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