Saturday, March 20, 2010

Extinct Birds

Haven't had much time recently to note recent news, so I'm playing catch-up here.

First, a new biological modeling system is being tested to determine whether it is economically feasible to try and save a species after it hasn't been seen in a while. Recent test subjects include the ivorybill and the dodo. (News source.)

California condors have made a nest in Pinnacles National Monument for the first time in 100 years. (News source.)

Scientists have extracted DNA from the eggshells of several extinct birds (moas, elephant birds, etc.). (Abstract)

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Eagle vs Deer

A photographer managed to get a series of shots of a golden eagle attacking a deer. (via Kevin Stewart.)


Monday, January 18, 2010

Auk Bones Museum Find

A museum at Glasgow University discovered they had great auk bones in their uncatalogued archaeological specimens. (News source.)

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OT: Raptors of the Northeast

For birders and wildlife enthusiasts in the northeastern US, I've recently published Dr. Thomas Bosakowski and Dr. Dwight G. Smith's Raptors of the Northeast. Full color, 30 species covered, 200 pages.

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New Bird from Borneo

A new bird has been photographed in Borneo, but not yet described. (News source.)

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Warbler

A new warbler has been discovered in Vietnam and Laos. (News source, via Kevin Stewart.)

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Heron vs Snake

Down in Maryland, a northern water snake was enjoying its meal (a fish), when it was grabbed by a great blue heron. (Pic)

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Prairie Chicken Extirpation

The greater prairie-chicken is now believed extirpated from Canada. (News source.)

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Rare Owls

A profile here on the rare Anjouan scops-owl of the Comoros.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

WV Ostrich Egg Was Joke

Not unsurprisingly, someone has stepped forward to admit to planting an ostrich egg in the woods of West Virginia for fun. (News source.)

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

West Virginia Ostrich (Egg)

A guy in the West Virginia woods found a giant egg; the closest ostrich/emu farm is about three miles away, and they haven't lost any birds, though apparently there are rumors of loose ostriches in the region. And, yes, it does appear to be an ostrich egg. (Sorry, thunderbird enthusiasts...) (News source.)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Introduced Toucans in Grenada

A brief paper (2001) on the introduction of channel-billed toucans on the island of Grenada.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Golden Eagles Hunt Reindeer

BBC filmmakers took footage of golden eagles attacking a reindeer calf in Finland, behavior which was anecdotal but never confirmed before now. (News source with video.) [via Kevin Stewart]

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rediscovered Bird

The Banggai crow, known previously from two specimens collected in 1900, has been rediscovered on an Indonesian island. (News source.)

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Giant Eagle Research

More research on the extinct Haast's eagle of New Zealand.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Color in Fossil Feathers

Sausage-shaped melanosomes have been found in fossil bird feathers, giving clues as to the original coloration. (News source.)

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rediscovered Birds

The Tasman booby, thought to be a now extinct species, has turned out to be a subspecies of the living masked booby. (News source.) [Abstract of paper here.]

Beck's petrel has been photographed in the Bismarck Archipelago, near Papua New Guinea. It hadn't been seen since 1929. (News source.)

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Searching for Lost Birds

Birdlife International is undergoing a project to determine if 47 critically endangered birds are still around, or if they have become extinct. (News source.)

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bare-Faced Bulbul

A new "bald" songbird has been discovered in Laos. (News source.)

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Searching for Evidence

A wing was all that was known of an Ethiopian nightjar, Caprimulgus solala, but adventurous birdwatchers managed to spot it, though they weren't able to capture it. (News source.)

A US FWS researcher is looking for the Charleston ant, Lasius nevadensis, in Nevada, which hasn't been seen since the 1950s. (News source.)

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Moa Coloration

DNA from ancient feathers is helping researchers figure out what moas actually looked like. (News source.)

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Parasites Lost

This isn't new, but I just ran across mention of this article from 2002, reprinted on biologist Rob Dunn's website, on the lice of the extinct passenger pigeon.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

NJ Monk Parakeets

A feral population of monk parakeets in New Jersey has won over some of the populace, but a bill protecting them has stalled in the state Senate committee. Probably because of the high attention that invasive species are getting elsewhere... (News source.)

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Thursday, April 16, 2009


One species, the African lark, appears to be going extinct. (News source.)

Another species, the Honduran emerald, a hummingbird, has been rediscovered in western Honduras. (News source.) [Though, apparently, it's been seen in eastern Honduras a few times in the last few years.]

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Another Condor Shot

Not killed, but may not be able to be re-released into the wild. (News source.)

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Antpitta Found, But Probably Lost

A new subspecies of antipitta was discovered in an old collection, from a region that has undergone massive habitat loss (so may be extinct). (News source.)


Friday, March 20, 2009

Fossil Feathers

A heterodontosaurid fossil has features identified as "long feather-like structures sticking up from its body." (News source.)

A new fossil bird has been discovered in China, named Confuciusornis feducciai after the well-known palaeontologist. (News source.)

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

UK: Blue Morph Pheasant

Just an odd color morph of a pheasant noted in Lincolnshire. (News source)

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Bird: Solomon Islands

Note on a new bird, the Vanikoro White-eye, discovered recently, here, along with brief discussion on as yet undiscovered species.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Condor Release

Four more young California condors were released in Arizona near the Utah border. (News source.)

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Quail Rediscovery

Worcester’s buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri) was rediscovered in the Philippines, after it was photographed by a documentary crew who didn't realize it was very rare; the bird was caught, then sold in a market and eaten. (News source.)

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lamb vs Eagle

Amazingly, the lamb won... (News source.)

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chinese Babbler

A new bird has been discovered in China. (News source.)

"A new fist-sized, babbler bird species has been discovered in a series of underground caves in China" ...
"Ornithologists Zhou Fang and Jiang Aiwu first saw the bird, dark with white spots on its breast, in 2005 and has since then established its identity as an unknown species. They labeled it the Nonggang babbler, scientific name Stachyris nonggangensis, named for the region of China where the bird was found."

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson

For those of you who get up way too early in the morning, put on your hiking boots, grab your binoculars, and set out to look for flashing wings and trills in the tree tops, a new book will be just your cup of tea. Elizabeth J. Rosenthal has interviewed his friends, family, and colleagues to introduce us to the genius, drive, and humanity of a singular individual, Roger Tory Peterson. Birdwatcher shows the foibles and insecurities along with his love of nature and the determination behind his conservation efforts.

Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson
The Lyons Press
ISBN-13 978-1599212944
$29.95 / hardcover / 464 pp.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rumors of an Extinct Bird

Another article on the search for the South Island kokako in New Zealand.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recent Extinction of a New Fossil Penguin

Examination of fossil penguins found in archaeological sites on New Zealand suggest that a newly discovered species went extinct after Polynesian settlers arrived there. Another species, the extant yellow eyed penguin, then took over its territory. (News source.)

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Ice-Nesting Mystery

A father/son team tracked down the bird species responsible for some mysterious nest built directly on the glacial ice in the high Andes. (News source.)

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Warbler Wars

An interesting case of the Townsend's warblers apparently taking over hermit warblers range through interbreeding has been shown genetically (Eurekalert).

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Python vs Cockatoo Photos

An Australian woman took a series of photographs of a wild python swallowing a cockatoo. (News source.)

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Rediscovered Dove

The Wetar Ground-dove has been rediscovered on its Indonesian island. (News source.)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cockatoo Research

Researchers found surviving yellow-crested Abbott's cockatoos in Masalembu Archipelago. They're calling this a rediscovery, but it sounds like they were just checking to make sure this subspecies wasn't extinct. (News source.)

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Spider Catches Finch

An Australian golden orb weaver was photographed feeding on a dead finch in its web. (News source.)

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Fossil Goose

A goose-like bird fossil has been found in the UK; it had a 16-foot wingspan and a beak full of teeth. (News source.)

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Gabon: New Bird

Smithsonian scientists have published the description of a new bird, the olive-backed forest robin (Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus), from Gabon in Africa. (Eurekalert.)

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Nonggang Babbler

A new species of small bird has been described from China, near the border with Vietnam. (New source.)

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Friday, June 13, 2008

White Ravens

Noted on another list, there are white ravens on Vancouver Island. (News source.)


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Caatinga Woodpecker Rediscovered

The Caatinga Woodpecker (Celeus obrieni) was rediscovered during a recent ornithological survey in the Tocantins region of Central Brazil. "One of Brazil’s long lost birds, known only from a single specimen collected in 1926, has been rediscovered after an absence of 80 years." (News source.)

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Scandinavia's Parrot Fossil

A fossil parrot has been found on the Isle of Mors... (News source.)

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Roadrunner in Canada?

Two separate sightings of a strange bird on the Bruce Peninsula (Ontario) have some people thinking roadrunner. One witness used to live in Texas, and says he's familiar with the species. (News source.)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Introduced Kookaburras

A New Zealand researcher is trying to determine why introduced kookaburras haven't expanded their range like other invasive birds. (News source.)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Kokako Search

An alleged sighting of an extinct bird has New Zealand conservation officers off to look for it. An amateur ornithologist claims he saw a South Island kokako from about 20 meters. (News source.)

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Monday, March 17, 2008

New Bird

Some details here on the Togian white-eye and its discoverer. And a quote of interest:

"Joel Cracraft, the curator in charge of the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, said there's a popular perception that most bird species are widespread, that, like the American robin, they inhabit huge ranges.
"'But, in fact, most birds, most organisms are very narrowly distributed,' he said. 'They're found only in small areas and nowhere else in the world. When you have a situation like that, then you are likely to discover new species.'
"And, he added, 'There's just so much on this planet that hasn't really been investigated scientifically, lots of areas in the Andes, in Himalayas, in southeast Asia, in the big, big rainforest areas of South America and Congo.
"'We have not truly explored this earth, in terms of all the life forms that are on it. We are nowhere near complete in that effort.'"

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Beck's Petrel Rediscovered

There hasn't been a confirmed sighting since the 1920s, but a British ornithological expedition to PNG has rediscovered Beck's petrel. (News source.)

"Mr Shirihai photographed more than 30 individual Beck's petrels on the voyage, Mr Askew said.
"He also observed young juveniles in flight, which indicated the birds were breeding nearby, and recovered a dead Beck's petrel from the sea - now only the third museum-held specimen." ...
"The Beck's petrel is a sea bird that may be nocturnal and is thought to breed in the Bismarck Archipelago, in an area of circular, mountainous islands."

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ethnoknowns from the Philippines

There's a report of species newly recorded from Mindanao island, which includes two folkloric accounts of animals that may or may not be recognized species (and may or may not be something as yet undescribed). The first is a "red-faced monkey":

A group of red-faced monkeys that can mimic human laughter has been sighted in the mountain ranges of Sal-dab, a sacred mountain in Northern Mindanao, The STAR learned recently.
"The monkey that mimics human voice is known to natives as Uma-ay and is believed to bring a curse on whoever sees it.

"According to local folklore, whoever sees the creature will lose his way in the jungle or may encounter misfortune, accident or even death along the way." ...
A tribal trapper interviewed by The STAR last year said the Uma-ay looks human because they do not have hair on their faces and can mimic the human voice. They grow up to the size of the native monkeys in the area.
"'The laugh of an Uma-ay is an ominous sign, it means misfortune or even death,' the tribal hunter said in the Hiliga-onon dialect.

"The hunter declined to name the location of the place where the Uma-ay can be found but said it is sacred ground where tribal elders offer sacrifices and perform yearly rituals to appease their gods."

Now, Mindanao has one recognized monkey species, the common crab-eating macaque. That species isn't known for a bright red face (though that trait is known in the related Japanese macaque). So, might these red-faced monkeys be something new? A variant of the recognized macaque species? Or just a bit of local folklore? Another ethnoknown is briefly noted:

Aside from the Uma-ay, the tribal folk also mentioned that they sighted an unnamed feathered bird that has mammal’s hair.
"Just like the Uma-ay, the bird also mimics the human voice but its favorite sound is the cry of a newborn baby.

"The natives call the creature Ukang (owl) or gulus (ghost). This nocturnal bird is often heard making noise at night but only a few elders have actually seen it.

"Tribe members believe that the Uma-ay mimics the human voice to drive away the Kalumbata (monkey-eating eagle), which regularly hover in the area in search for food.

"It is said that Uma-ays would simultaneously sound their laughter to confuse the marauding eagles."

Not enough details, and most of this might be superstition masking the description. Whenever you have strange nocturnal calls, there's a potential for mistaking the identity. (News source.)

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Albino Weka

An albino specimen of the New Zealand endemic flightless bird, the weka, may be more vulnerable to predators. (News source.)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Non-Vocal Sonation in a Hummingbird

Anna's hummingbird "chirps" and "whistles" with its tail during display dives during mating season. (News source.)

"Wind tunnel tests confirmed that the outer tail feathers vibrate like a reed in a clarinet. The bird's split-second tail spread at dive speed thus produces a loud, brief burst that sounds like a chirp or beep."

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Guam Rail on Cocos Island

There's a plan to introduce the endangered Guam rail onto Cocos Island, where it would have better protection against predators. Snakes and cats have been devastating to the bird on its home island. (News source.)

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Bald Ibis

Some interesting news here about the rare bald ibis, as tagged birds in Syria migrate to eastern Africa.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

White-Rumped Vultures Found in Nepal

The Himalayan Times is saying that a group of about 40 white-rumped vultures has been discovered in Beli Patela forest at Dhangadhi of Kailali district, Nepal. It also mistakenly says the vulture was previously considered extinct worldwide, but that appears to be incorrect. As BirdLife notes, the species has suffered catastrophic decline in Pakistan and India, but is still known to exist in some flocks there. And, there are populations elsewhere, though it is considered critically endangered.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tropical Hummingbird Relocated

The wandering green-breasted mango (a tropical hummingbird) that had found its way to Wisconsin was captured and sent to an aviary at the Brookfield Zoo. (News source.)

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Hummingbird Waif

A tropical hummingbird, the green-breasted mango, has turned up in Wisconsin. (News source.)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Brazilian Antwren

BirdLife has announed a possible new species of antwren from Bahia, Brazil. The species, the Sincorá Antwren (Formicivora grantsaui), was described in:

L. P. Gonzaga, A. M. P. Carvalhaes, & D. R. C. Buzzetti. 2007. A new species of Formicivora antwren from the Chapada Diamantina, eastern Brazil (Aves: Passeriformes: Thamnophilidae). Zootaxa 1473: 25–44

The bird "is found only in the campo rupestre vegetation of the Serra do Sincorá between 850 m and 1,100 m in the Chapada Diamantina region. This is an important area that holds other restricted range species such as Grey-backed Tachuri Polystictus superciliaris and Pale-throated Pampa-finch Embernagra longicauda. First observed in 1997, it is closely related to Rusty-backed Antwren Formicivora rufa, with which it sometimes occurs sympatrically. It differs slightly in some plumage characters but more importantly it has quite distinctive vocalisations and each species utilises different habitats. Formicivora grantsaui occurs on rocky outcrops in the campo rupestre and F. rufa in the adjacent savannas."

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New Zealand: New Bird Family

Genetic analysis of the New Zealand stitchbird (Notiomystis cincta) shows that it is not closely related to the only other three families of endemic New Zealand birds: the kiwis, the New Zealand wrens, or the New Zealand wattlebirds. A new family, the Notiomystidae, has been set up for it. (News source.)

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cowbird Mafia

Turns out cowbirds weren't merely duping the host birds into taking care of their eggs and offspring; it was blackmail, pure and simple. National Geographic News notes:

"Cowbird mothers keep watch on the nests where they've laid their eggs.
"If the birds find that their eggs have been destroyed or removed from the nest, the cowbirds retaliate, the study says.
"The birds reportedly destroy the host birds' eggs, pecking holes in them or carrying them out of the nest and dropping them on the ground."

Not all ornithologists are convinced by this new study, as the cowbirds' deprivations weren't caught in the act, but the proponents say they have ruled out all other possibilities.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Rare Cuckoo Recorded

A large bird from Sumatra, rediscovered only in the last decade, has finally been recorded on audio tape, which should help ornithologists survey the rare species. From Eurekalert:

"A team of biologists with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have recorded for the first time the call of the extremely rare Sumatran ground cuckoo, found only on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.
"The bird was captured by a trapper and handed over to WCS biologists, who recorded the bird’s call while it nursed an injured foot. Once fully recovered, the bird will be released back into the wild.
"Known only by a handful of specimens collected over the past century, the Sumatran ground cuckoo is considered to be one of the world’s rarest, most secretive birds, and is restricted to Sumatra’s deep jungles and rainforests. In fact, ornithologists believed the bird was extinct until 1997, when a single individual was briefly seen. Last year a second bird was photographed by a remote camera trap. It is now believed to be critically endangered. Until now, however, no one knew the bird’s call – a key field diagnostic ornithologists use to identify birds that live in forest. According to WCS, having a recording of the bird’s call will also make it easier for biologists to locate other individuals, and to possibly evaluate the bird’s total population.
"'We were extremely lucky to have recorded the bird’s unique call,' said Firdaus Rahman, of WCS’s Indonesia Program. 'Our team will use the recording to hopefully locate other Sumatran ground cuckoos, and to eventually secure their protection.'
"The recoded call can best be described as a pair of sharp screams. It is unknown at this point whether the bird has additional vocalizations.
"Sumatran ground cuckoos are relatively large birds (half a meter long) with long tails. It has green plumage with a black crown and green bill, and striking blue facial markings."

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Monday, February 12, 2007

New Parrot or Fake Photos?

Following news reports of the possible discovery of a blue-browed fig-parrot in Queensland, comes a report that the photos have elements that suggest alteration. From the Australian:

"The reported discovery of a new species of parrot in Queensland's rainforests has been undermined by a leading authority on forensic photography.
"The Beattie Government has dissociated itself from naturalist John Young after Gale Spring, associate professor in scientific photography at Melbourne's RMIT University, cast doubt on a photograph of a parrot Mr Young claimed was new to science." ...
"In November, Mr Young's company, John Young Wildlife Enterprises, and Queensland Environment Minister Lindy Nelson-Carr announced the discovery of the so-called blue-browed fig-parrot in the rainforests of southern Queensland.
"Mr Young and the Queensland Government's endangered species officer, Ian Gynther, were to publish a scientific article about the discovery.
"The photograph of the parrot was featured prominently in Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper. At the time, The Australian reported Mr Young had made similar claims in the mid-1990s which were not substantiated, and that there were doubts about the photograph. The bird depicted closely resembled the red-browed fig-parrot of north Queensland, except the forehead was blue, not red. Soon afterwards, Professor Spring was sent a high-resolution image of the photograph.
"At a briefing in Brisbane last week, Professor Spring showed computer images of the photo to Dr Gynther and other Environment Department officers. He pointed out differences between the texture of feathers around the bird's head and feathers on the rest of its body. He thought the surface imaging of the photograph was typical of pictures that had been altered, and although there might be an explanation for this, said he needed to view the original image.
"He offered to examine the original photographs on a CD or under supervision at Mr Young's Brisbane office. The inspection would have resolved the matter, but the offer was not taken up.
"'Without seeing the original images, it is not possible for me to conclude absolutely this photograph is not genuine,' Professor Spring said. 'Nonetheless, I have doubts about several aspects, and this clearly requires inquiry.'"

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