March 16, 2009
Announced in the scientific journal Ibis the new species, Vanikoro white-eye or Zosterops gibbsi, sports a distinct bill and unique colors on its legs and eye-rings.
“Genetic research has shown that white-eyes evolve new species faster than any known bird family,” orinthologist Guy Dutson of Birdlife Australia told the parents organization Birdlife International. “Islands only 3 kilometers apart in the Solomons have their own white-eye species, and the Solomon Islands alone have 13 species of white-eye. Like Darwin’s finches, these birds have evolved unique beak structures and feeding behaviours in the absence of competitors.”
The finches in the Galapagos, often called Darwin's finches because they helped lead Charles Darwin to the theory of evolution, are another family of birds known for fast evolution.
In the crowded taxonomic order of Passeriformes birds from the white-eye family are identified by the ring of white around their eyes. As social birds, Dutson notes that they collected observations that suggest the new sspecies are involved in cooperative breeding, a behavior that is only seen in two other white-eyes.
“This new species forages in a slower, more methodical manner than similar white-eyes,” Dr. Dutson told Birdlife Interntional, “suggesting they have evolved into an empty niche”.
The greatest threat to the Vanikoro white-eye and other white-eyes in the Pacific Islands are invasive species like rats and logging of habitat.
Photo of new bird species discovered in China
(01/30/2009) A previously unknown species of babbler has been discovered in China's Guangxi province near the border with Vietnam, reports Birdlife International.
Rare bird rediscovered on 'most pristine' island in southeast Asia
(10/23/2008) Scientist have rediscovered the endangered Wetar Ground-dove (Gallicolumba hoedtii), one of the world's least known birds, 100 years after it was last seen on the remote Indonesian island of Wetar, reports Columbidae Conservation, a UK-based conservation group.
Birds face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought
(07/14/2008) Birds may face higher risk of extinction than conventionally thought, says a bird ecology and conservation expert from Stanford University. Dr. Cagan H. Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford and head of the world's largest tropical bird radio tracking project, estimates that 15 percent of world's 10,000 bird species will go extinct or be committed to extinction by 2100 if necessary conservation measures are not taken. While birds are one of the least threatened of any major group of organisms, Sekercioglu believes that worst-case climate change, habitat loss, and other factors could conspire to double this proportion by the end of the century. As dire as this sounds, Sekercioglu says that many threatened birds are rarer than we think and nearly 80 percent of land birds predicted to go extinct from climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction, suggesting that species loss may be far worse than previously imagined. At particular risk are marine species and specialists in mountain habitats.
Study redraws family tree of birds
(06/26/2008) The largest-ever study of bird genetics has rewritten avian taxonomy. The work is published in this week's issue of Science.
Rat killing spree may save endangered wildlife on remote Pacific islands
(05/26/2008) A team of scientists is on its way to remote the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to eradicate rats that are threatening populations of indigenous seabirds, reports conservation International, an environmental group.