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Missing Bird Species Rediscovered After 140 Years

Date: 07-Mar-07
Country: UK

The live Large-billed Reed-warbler was found by chance by ornithologist Philip Round as he was putting identification tags on wild birds at a water treatment plant near Bangkok last year.

"Although reed-warblers are generally drab and look very similar, one of the birds I caught that morning struck me as very odd, something about it didn't quite add up; it had a long beak and short wings," he said in a statement.

"Then, it dawned on me -- I was probably holding a Large-billed Reed-warbler. I was dumbstruck, it felt as if I was holding a living dodo," he said.

The remains of another one have also been found during examination of a collection of specimens of another species at a branch of the Natural History Museum in England.

Both the living and the dead were matched to the one original sample by DNA.

Because only one sample had been known for so long -- since it was collected in the Sutlej Valley in India in 1867 -- there had been serious doubts over whether it was a sample of a distinct species or simply an aberration.

"A priority now is to find out where the Large-billed Reed-warbler's main population lives, whether it is threatened, and if so, how these threats can be addressed," said BirdLife International's Dr Stuart Butchart.

"Myanmar or Bangladesh are strong possibilities, but this species has proved so elusive that it could produce yet another surprise".

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Reuters
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