An international team of scientists discovered a new bird species in Northeastern India and adjacent parts of China. The team named this Himalayan forest thrush Zoothera salimalii in honor of the Indian ornithologist Sálim Ali, who had vastly contributed to the development of Indian ornithology as well as in nature conservation.
The researchers noticed that the birds in the forests sang more musically than the ones found on the bare rocky ground above the treeline which had a harsher, scratchier and unmelodic sound. Initially, these two birds were mistakenly considered as a single plain-backed thrush Zoothera mollissima species.
Apart from field observation, the scientists had to study specimens in the museum. Researchers collected samples from several countries and noticed that the analyses of plumage or the bird’s feathers reveal the differences in plumage and structure between the birds.
Another plain-backed thrush, which had been treated as another subspecies of plain-backed thrush in central China, is now called Sichuan forest thrush. Accordingly, the Sichuan forest thrush is even more musical than the Himalayan forest thrush.
“At first we had no idea how or whether they differed morphologically,” Pamela Rasmussen said. “We were stunned to find that specimens in museums for over 150 years from the same parts of the Himalayas could readily be divided into two groups based on measurements and plumage.”
Rasmussen is from Michigan State University’s Department of Integrative Biology, MSU Museum and is coordinator of MSU’s global bird sounds website, AVoCet. She remarked that the DNA suggests that the three species have been separated genetically millions of years ago.
The scientists lament that new bird species are rarely found nowadays. Only five new species have been discovered in the last 15 years, which were mainly found in South America. Now, the Himalayan forest thrush is the newest bird species from India since 1949.
The British Trust for Ornithology said that studies like this one are important. The discovery of new species will provide greater protection to the birds and their habitat. Additionally, the research team also found another unnamed species in China but further studies are needed to confirm this.