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New Bird in the Big City

Posted by Richard Conniff on June 28, 2013

cambodian tailorbirdWe live in a great age of species discovery, with scientists describing new and spectactular creatures at a rate that would fill the explorers of the Victorian era with sheer envy.  The usual explanation is that modern researchers get to explore remote forests and mountaintops that used to be inaccessible.

But sometimes a sensational species can turn up even in our own backyards.  Something like that happened to Simon Mahood, an ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, who has just described a colorful new bird species found less than a half-hour from his home, in the heart of Cambodia’s crowded capital city Phnom Penh.

The new species is wren-sized gray bird with a cinnamon cap, white cheeks, and a black throat, and it’s one of just two birds species that are found only in Cambodia.  Hence its new common name, the Cambodian tailorbird.  In an article published in the Oriental Bird Club’s journal Forktail, Mahood and his co-authors have given it the  scientific name Orthotomus chaktomuk.   Mahood explains that Phnom Penh was historically known as “krong chaktomuk,” meaning “city of four faces.”  It’s a reference to the low lying area where four rivers come together downtown.

The new species first turned up in January 2009, when …  To read the full article, click here.

2 Responses to “New Bird in the Big City”

  1. If a bird can be cute, I’d say this one is!

  2. If I was the editor, I wouldn’t publish this paper. The most important piece of proof that it’s a new species is missing: they failed to do DNA comparison with parapatrically living birds of a closely related species, so there’s a chance it’s just an ecomorph. I can’t imagine why they didn’t do it, as long as they did a comparison with a different subspecies of the same parapatric species.

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