Indian large-billed reed warbler, lost for 139 years, found again in Thailand and Britain

This video says about itself:

Blyth’s Reed Warbler

Winchelsea Beach, East Sussex 18th June 2016

From BirdLife:

Indian warbler “lost” for 139 years makes spectacular return—in Thailand and the UK


Ornithologists across the world are celebrating with the news that a wetland bird that has eluded scientists ever since its discovery in India in 1867 has been refound. Twice.

The Large-billed Reed-warbler is the world’s least known bird.

A single bird was collected in the Sutlej Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India, in 1867, but many had questioned whether it was indeed represented a true species and wasn’t just an aberrant individual of a common species.

But on 27 March 2006, ornithologist Philip Round, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology, Mahidol University, was bird ringing (banding) at a wastewater treatment centre (the royally initiated Laem Phak Bia Environmental Research and Development Project) near Bangkok, Thailand.

“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,” said Round.

“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.”

“I knew it was essential to get cast-iron proof of its identity. I took many photographs, and carefully collected two feathers for DNA analysis, so as not to harm the bird.” …

“This remarkable discovery gives Indian ornithologists an added incentive to continue our search for the Large-billed Reed-warbler in India,” said Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society.

“Like the discovery of Bugun Liocichla last year in Arunachal Pradesh, it shows us just how much we still have to learn about our remarkable avifauna.” …

But, in a further twist to this remarkable tale, six months after the rediscovery, another Large-billed Reed-warbler specimen was discovered in the collection of the Natural History Museum at Tring, in a drawer of Blyth’s Reed-warblers (Acrocephalus dumetorum) collected in India during the 19th Century.

Once again, Professor Staffan Bensch confirmed the identification using DNA.

“Finding one Large-billed Reed-warbler after 139 years was remarkable, finding a second—right under ornithologists’ noses for that length of time—is nothing short of a miracle,” said Butchart.

The second specimen is from a different part of India and is bound to fuel debate as to the whereabouts of more Large-billed Reed-warblers.

Birdwatching in India: here.

Researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society have discovered for the first time the breeding area of the large-billed reed warbler—dubbed in 2007 as “the world’s least known bird species”—in the remote and rugged Wakhan Corridor of the Pamir Mountains of north-eastern Afghanistan: here.

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4 thoughts on “Indian large-billed reed warbler, lost for 139 years, found again in Thailand and Britain

  1. Large-billed Reed-warbler (not so) new to Afghanistan and Kazakhstan – According to a recent paper in the Journal of Avian Biology by Svensson et al. Large-billed Reed-warbler Acrocephalus orinus can be added to the bird lists of Afghanistan and Kazakhstan, after finding 10 new specimens in museum collections. The Kazakhstan specimen was collected by N. Zarudny on 18 August 1900 in the south-east of the country. The four Afghan specimens were collected by W. N. Koelz in north-east Afghanistan in July 1937. Until recently Large-billed Reed-warbler was known only from one specimen, collected in the Sutlej Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India in November 1867. In March 2006 one was trapped at Laem Phak Bia, Phatchaburi Province, south-west Thailand.


  2. Afghanistan protects newly rediscovered rare bird

    By KAY JOHNSON Associated Press Writer

    Posted: 02/28/2010 02:43:56 AM PST
    Updated: 02/28/2010 02:55:26 AM PST

    KABUL—Afghanistan’s fledging conservation agency moved Sunday to protect one of the world’s rarest birds after the species was rediscovered in the war-ravaged country’s northeast.

    The remote Pamir Mountains are the only known breeding area of the large-billed reed warbler, a species so elusive that it had been documented only twice before in more than a century.

    A researcher with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society stumbled upon the tiny, olive-brown bird during a wildlife survey in 2008 and taped its distinctive song. Later, a research team caught and released 20 of the birds—the largest number ever recorded.

    On Sunday, Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency added the large-billed reed warbler to its list of protected species, which was established only last year.

    Mustafa Zahir, the agency’s director-general, acknowledged the difficulties of trying to protect wildlife in a country preoccupied with the Taliban insurgency. On Friday, suicide attackers killed 16 people in Kabul, the capital, and thousands of Afghan and NATO forces are fighting to root out the hard-line Islamists from their southern stronghold.

    But Zahir, who is the grandson of Afghanistan’s former king, said the discovery of the large-billed reed warbler provided some welcome positive news.

    “It is not true that our country is full of only bad stories,” Zahir said. “This bird, after so many years, has been discovered here. Everyone thought it was extinct.”

    The bird’s discovery in Afghanistan kicked off a small flurry in conservation circles.

    The large-billed reed warbler was first documented in India in 1867 but wasn’t found again until 2006—with a single bird in Thailand. The Pamir Mountains, in the sparsely populated Badakhshan province near China, is now home to the world’s only known large population of the bird.

    The Afghan environmental agency also added 14 other species to the protected list on Sunday. It now includes 48 species including the rare snow leopard, the Asiatic cheetah and the markhor, a type of wild goat with large spiral horns.

    While conservation efforts are in their infancy in Afghanistan, there have been some recent successes. Authorities in Badakhshan last week seized a snow leopard from villagers who had trapped it and planned to sell it. The snow leopard—one of an estimated 150 left in the wild—will be freed once its injuries from the trap are healed, Zahir said.


  3. Pingback: Blyth’s reed warbler ringed in Bahrain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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