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23rd new bird species of 2013 discovered

A ground-warbler from the Philippines is the twenty-third species of bird described in 2013.

The species, dubbed Robsonius thompsoni, is described in the August issue of the journal The Condor. It was discovered after researchers from the University of Kansas, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, the University of the Philippines Los Baños, and the Philippine National Museum distinguished it from two closely-related ground-warblers. The first clue was the bird’s coloration, according to University of Kansas biologist Pete Hosner.

“When we noted the different plumage coloration between adult birds in the Cordillera and the Sierra Madre in northern Luzon, we sequenced DNA to determine if the plumage differences were individual variation within a species, or if the two plumage forms were also genetically diagnosable,” Hosner said. “We found that Cordillera and Sierra Madre birds were highly divergent in their DNA, almost as different as the distinctive Bicol Ground-Warbler in southern Luzon.”

Sierra Madre Ground-Warbler, Robsonius thompsoni, adult. Image credit: J.-C. Gonzales.

The new species is named after Max Thompson, a retired professor from Southwestern College and a research associate in the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas (KU).

“He received his master’s degree from KU in the ’60s for his studies on the birds of Borneo, and he has conducted avian research on every continent,” Hosner said. “When Max retired a few years ago, his extensive research collection came to the KU Biodiversity Institute. We wanted to name the bird after Max for his decades of avian research around the world and thank him for his contributions to KU ornithology.”

The Sierra Madre Ground-Warbler is the twenty-third species of bird described for the first time in 2013. Three of the “new” species were also described by researchers at the University of Kansas’ Biodiversity Institute.

There are around 10,000 bird species known to science.

CITATION: Peter Hosner et al. 2013. Phylogeography of the Robsonius Ground-Warblers (Passeriformes: Locustellidae) Reveals an Undescribed Species from Northeastern Luzon, Philippines. The Condor 115 (3): 630-639; doi: 10.1525/cond.2013.120124

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