Ornithologists announce discovery of new bird species
Contact: Pamela Rasmussen, MSU Museum: (517) 432-0872,
or Sue Nichols, University Relations: (517)
March 13, 2008
An artist’s rendering of Zosterops somadikartai, or Togian white-eye.
By Agus Prijono
EAST LANSING, Mich. — The announcement of the discovery of a new bird
comes with a twist: It’s a white-eye, but its eye isn’t white. Still,
what this new bird lacks in literal qualities it makes up for as one
of the surprises that nature still has tucked away in little-explored
corners of the world.
Ornithologists, including one from Michigan State University, describe
for science a new species of bird from the Togian Islands of Indonesia
– Zosterops somadikartai, or Togian white-eye, in the March edition of
The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
Its eye isn’t ringed in a band of white feathers like its cousins who
flock in other remote tropical islands of Indonesia. Still, it has
many features in common with the black-crowned white-eyeZosterops
atrifrons of Sulawesi, which is clearly its closest relative, said
MSU’s Pamela Rasmussen, an internationally known ornithologist
specializing in Asian birds.
“What this discovery highlights is that in some parts of the world
there are still virtually unexplored islands where few ornithologists
have worked,” Rasmussen said. “The world still holds avian surprises
The Togian white-eye first was spotted by Mochamad Indrawan, an
Indonesian field biologist at the Depok Campus of the University of
Indonesia, and Sunarto (some Indonesians use a single name), who is
now working on a doctorate at Virginia Tech, 12 years ago during their
first trip to the Togian Islands.
Those first sightings were fleeting, but Indrawan and Sunarto returned
and made several more observations of these active little green birds,
and obtained the type specimen upon which the species’ description is
now founded. The type specimen was then sent on loan to Rasmussen at
the MSU Museum, so she could make detailed comparisons between it and
related species at museums such as Britain’s Natural History Museum,
the American Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Institution.
The new bird is believed to be endangered. The white-eye has been seen
only near the coasts of three small islands of the Togian Islands in
central Sulawesi. Unlike most white-eye species, it is evidently quite
uncommon even in its very limited range. Considering its limited
numbers and distribution, it falls into the World Conservation Union
category of endangered. This finding also establishes the Togian
Islands as an endemic bird area.
“This finding shows that equal opportunities are beneficial for the
development of science and in particular that international
cooperation can boost capacities in addressing poorly known biology in
the tropics,” Indrawan said. “This finding of the bird is only the
beginning given the vast opportunities with Indonesian landscapes and
seascapes of endemic flora and fauna.”
The species is named for Soekarja Somadikarta, Indonesia’s leading
taxonomist and mentor to Indrawan. Somadikarta was recently appointed
honorary president for International Ornithological Congress XXV.
Rasmussen noted that the Togian white-eye is distinctive not only in
appearance, but its lilting song, which Indrawan recorded and
Rasmussen committed to sonogram, sounds higher pitched and is less
varied in pitch than its close
To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)