U.S. Water News Online
BANGKOK, Thailand -- A wetland bird that eluded scientists
for nearly 130 years has been rediscovered at a wastewater treatment
plant in Thailand, Birdlife International announced.
Little is known about the large-billed reed-warbler because it had
not been seen since its discovery in 1867 in the Sutlej Valley of
India. Because it was so rare, scientists had long debated whether it
represented a true species or was an aberrant individual of a more
But that debate appears to be settled after ornithologist Philip
Round of Bangkok's Mahidol University captured one of the birds on
March 27, 2006, at a wastewater treatment center outside Bangkok, the
Cambridge, England-based conservation organization said.
"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," Round said in a statement,
adding that it had a long beak and short wings.
"Then, it dawned on me. I was probably holding a large-billed
reed-warbler," he said. "I was dumbstruck. It felt as if I was
holding a living dodo."
To confirm his findings, Round sent photographs and DNA samples of
the bird to Prof. Staffan Bensch of Sweden's Lund University, who had
previously examined the Indian specimen. He confirmed it represented
a valid species.
More evidence that the large-billed reed-warbler was a unique
species came to light six months after Round's discovery -- tucked
away in a museum drawer.
A second new specimen was found in the collection of the Natural
History Museum at Tring, England, in a drawer of Blyth's
reed-warblers collected in India in the 19th century. This one was
caught in 1869 in India's Uttar Pradesh and Bensch has since
confirmed its identification using DNA.
"Finding one large-billed reed-warbler after 139 years was
remarkable. Finding a second right under ornithologists' noses is
nothing short of a miracle," BirdLife International's Stuart Butchart
said in a statement.
Butchart and other bird experts said the two discoveries have
raised the prospect that additional large-billed reed-warblers will
be found in Myanmar, Bangladesh or in other parts of Thailand.
"Almost nothing is known about this mysterious bird," Butchart
"The Indian specimen has short, round wings and we speculated it
is resident or a short-distance migrant, so its appearance in
Thailand is very surprising," he said. "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."
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