Almost extinct Banggai crow rediscovered

This almost extinct bird known to science only by two specimens described in 1900, it has re-appeared from hiding on a remote, mountainous Indonesian island.

The Banggai crow (Corvus unicolor) was believed by many to be extinct until Indonesian biologists finally secured two new specimens on Peleng Island in 2007. Pamela Rasmussen, a Michigan State University assistant professor of zoology and renowned species sleuth, provided conclusive verification.

An ornithologist who specializes on the birds of southern Asia, Rasmussen studied the two century-old specimens in New York's American Museum of Natural History. She compared them to the new crow specimens in Indonesia's national museum, to lay to rest lingering speculation that they were merely a subspecies of a different crow. The more common Slender-billed crow (Corvus enca), also is found in the Banggai Islands, and likewise is all black.

"The morphometric analysis I did shows that all four unicolor specimens are very similar to each other, and distinctly different from enca specimens. We also showed that the two taxa differ in eye color - an important feature in Corvus - as well," Rasmussen said. "Not only did this confirm the identity of the new specimens but also the specific distinctness of Corvus unicolor, which has also long been in doubt."

The rediscovery was spearheaded by professor Mochamad Indrawan of the University of Indonesia, chair of the Indonesian Ornithologists' Union, who conducted ecological field studies. He was assisted by collaborator Yunus Masala and by the Celebes Bird Club, members of which secured the new specimens that are now cataloged at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense in Java.

A photo of the Banggai crow debuts this week in volume 14 of the influential Handbook of the Birds of the World. "It was very exciting to see photos of such a rare species about which almost nothing is known, especially since the photos were of such high quality," said Chief Editor Josep del Hoyo. He called the rediscovery "spectacular."

Rasmussen, who also is assistant curator of mammalogy and ornithology at the MSU Museum, is the author of the two-volume Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Her work on uncovering the ornithological frauds of British collector Col. Richard Meinertzhagen has won international attention, detailed in Nature, the May 2006 The New Yorker, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007.

Via - Michigan State University , 13 October 2009

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where is this bird protected?

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