Some titles are too good to miss. How often in my lifetime can I expect to be able to write up “Bwindi’s brand-new blue-eyed black Boubou bird”? Well today I can!
Recently I was passed a scientific paper by one of its authors, John Bates from the Chicago Field Museum. The paper has the title A New Species of Boubou (Malaconotidae: Laniarius) from the Albertine Rift. It is worth a look — it is a well crafted piece of detective work. You can access the paper, Voelker at al 2010, here.
What is exciting is the the authors “found” a new bird species right here in Bwindi. New bird species are not common these days so a discovery like this should attract some interest. They have called it Laniarius willardi, or “Willard’s Sooty Boubou” – the specific epithet honors the ornithologist David Willard.
No-one had thought to make too much of the local blue-eyed black Boubou that was found here until a genetic analysis (based on birds in museum collections) showed it was quite different than the various otherwise similar dark Boubou species found in the region (these other have reddish-black to black eyes). According to the genetic data our blue-eye’s nearest relative is a distinct (dark-eyed) species from Mt Cameroon.
The team that described this bird did it from their museum collections. They lack observations of the wild birds — even photographs. We don’t even know what sounds they make. Is it common or rare, threatened or safe? We hope to try and answer some of these questions if we get a chance. We know where to look!
We’ll let you know if we have any progress! In the meantime, am I the only one who thinks the paper should have had a more fun title?