Researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society have discovered for the first time the breeding area of the large-billed reed warblerdubbed in 2007 as "the world's least known bird species"in the remote and rugged Wakhan Corridor of the Pamir Mountains of north-eastern Afghanistan.
Using a combination of astute field observations, museum specimens, DNA sequencing, and the first known audio recording of the species, researchers verified the discovery by capturing and releasing almost 20 birds earlier this year, the largest number ever recorded.
A preliminary paper on the finding appears in the most recent edition of BirdingASIA. The authors include: Robert Timmins, Naqeebullah Mostafawi, Ali Madad Rajabi, Hafizullah Noori, Stephane Ostrowski and Colin Poole, of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Urban Olsson of Gteborg University, Sweden; and Lars Svensson.
The recent discovery of large-billed reed warblers in Afghanistan represents a watershed moment in the study of this bird, called in 2007 the world's least known bird species by BirdLife International. The first specimen was discovered in India in 1867, with more than a century elapsing before a second discovery of a single bird in Thailand in 2006.
"Practically nothing is known about this species, so this discovery of the breeding area represents a flood of new information on the large-billed reed warbler," said Colin Poole, Executive Director of WCS's Asia Program. "This new knowledge of the bird also indicates that the Wakhan Corridor still holds biological secrets and is critically important for future conservation efforts in Afghanistan."
The find serves as a case study in the detective work needed to confirm ornithological discoveries. The story begins in 2008, when Timmins was conducting a survey of bird communities along the Wakhan and Pamir Rivers. He immediately heard a distinctive song coming from a small, olive-brown bird with a long bill
|Contact: John Delaney|
Wildlife Conservation Society