New bird species found near Cambodian city

Near the bustle of Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, something has gone unnoticed for years: a bird species with a reddish cap and nasal squeak.

Researchers first netted the birds in 2009 as part of an effort to monitor avian flu but thought they belonged to a known species. Then last year, another bird was discovered at a construction site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Simon Mahood of the Wildlife Conservation Society noticed photographs of one specimen and, after further observations and consultation with other experts, realized the birds might represent a new species.

Dubbed the Cambodian tailorbird, the species has a “rich cinnamon-rufous crown,” white cheeks, and grey wings. The birds live on floodplains near the Mekong, Bassac, and Tonle Sap Rivers. Their habitat might eventually give way to rice farms and cattle grazing, the researchers say, and could be threatened by dam construction.

People probably didn’t notice this species because it occupies a small area, and its habitat “is of little interest to birdwatchers,” the team writes in Forktail. In addition, “the denseness of the habitat and the species’s skulking habits would more often than not render it invisible to the casual would-be observer.” Roberta Kwok | 1 July 2013

Source: S.P. Mahood et al. 2013. A new species of lowland tailorbird (Passeriformes: Cisticolidae: Orthotomus) from the Mekong floodplain of Cambodia. Forktail 29: 1-14.

Image © James Eaton | Birdtour Asia