06 Mar Myanmar’s ‘dodo’ alive and tweeting

Written by Mizzima Published in Environment Read 2500 times
Jerdon’s babbler had not been spotted in Myanmar since July 1941, when it was seen in grasslands close to the Sittaung River near Myitkyo in Bago Region. Photo: WCS
Jerdon’s babbler had not been spotted in Myanmar since July 1941, when it was seen in grasslands close to the Sittaung River near Myitkyo in Bago Region. Photo: WCS

Scientists have found the Myanmar Jerdon’s babbler - long thought to be extinct – alive and well during a recent expedition, according to a press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society on March 5.

The bird, thought to have gone the way of the dodo decades ago, has been rediscovered by a team from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Myanmar’s Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, and National University of Singapore has rediscovered a bird previously thought to be extinct.

Jerdon’s babbler [Chrysomma altirostre] had not been seen in Myanmar since July 1941, where it was last found in grasslands near the town of Myitkyo, Bago Region near the Sittaung River.

The rediscovery was described in the recently published issue of Birding Asia, the magazine of the Oriental Bird Club.

The team found the bird on 30 May 2014 while surveying a site around an abandoned agricultural station that still contained some grassland habitat. After hearing the bird’s distinct call, the scientists played back a recording and were rewarded with the sighting of an adult Jerdon’s babbler. Over the next 48 hours, the team repeatedly found Jerdon’s babblers at several locations in the immediate vicinity and managed to obtain blood samples and high-quality photographs.

The small brown bird, about the size of a house sparrow, was initially described byBritish naturalist T. C. Jerdon in January 1862, who found it in grassy plains near Thayetmyo.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the species was common in the vast natural grassland that once covered the Ayeyarwady and Sittaung flood plains around Yangon. Since then, agriculture and communities have gradually replaced most of these grasslands as the area has developed.

This work was carried out as part of a larger study to understand the genetics of Myanmar bird species and determine the true level of bird diversity found in the country. Already Myanmar has more species of bird than any other country in mainland Southeast Asia and this number is likely to increase as the understanding of birds in the long-isolated country continues to grow.