A new species of bird has been discovered on the China-India border, researchers said.
Writing in the journal Avian Research, researchers from Michigan State University and Uppsala University in Sweden are calling the new bird the Himalayan forest thrush, or Zoothera Salimalii, which is an nod to Indian ornithologist Sálim Ali.
At first, the researchers thought the thrush was the same as another, the plain-backed Zoothera mollissima, but later realized it was a different species based on its song.
The plain-backed thrush, researchers say, has a “much harsher, scratchier, unmusical song” and lives in the coniferous and mixed forest. The new bird, which lives above the treeline has a “rather musical song.”
"It was an exciting moment when the penny dropped, and we realized that the two different song types from plain-backed thrushes that we first heard in northeast India in 2009, and which were associated with different habitats at different elevations, were given by two different species," said Per Alstrom of Uppsala University, who led the team.
The team also examined museum specimens of the birds and noticed “consistent differences in plumage and structure between birds.”
"At first we had no idea how or whether they differed morphologically. We were stunned to find that specimens in museums for over 150 years from the same parts of the Himalayas could readily be divided into two groups based on measurements and plumage," Pamela Rasmussen of Michigan State University said.
After looking at the DNA of the birds, the researchers say the species have been “genetically separated for several million years.”
The Himalayan forest thrush is only the fourth new species discovered in India since 1949. Globally, new species of birds are rare with only five species discovered annually over the past 15 years, mostly in South America.