A tiny bird has been discovered in plain sight -- on a construction site in a busy Indonesian metro area. The Cambodian Tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk) is a bird species previously unknown to science that was discovered while health officials were making routine checks for avian flu in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
A team of scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, BirdLife International and other groups have outlined the details of the discovery in the Oriental Bird Club journal Forktail. The first sighting of the Cambodian Tailorbird dates back to 2009, when birdwatchers noticed the grey and reddish bird and mistakenly believed it belonged to an existing species.
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It was only three years later, when a bird was found in a partially flooded construction site in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, that scientists began to take a closer look.
"The modern discovery of an undescribed bird species within the limits of a large populous city -- not to mention 30 minutes from my home -- is extraordinary," Stephen Mahood, of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), who was part of the team that investigated the new species, said in a statement.
Between June 2012 and April 2013 more sightings were reported, specimens were examined and scientists concluded that the bird had “significant morphological differences from its close relatives,” marking it as a new species.
Described by the WCS as a "wren-sized small gray bird with rufous cap and black throat," the Tailorbird has also been spotted on the floodplain scrubs outside Phnom Penh. Authors of the study attribute the discovery to a half-century of human conflict in the area that prevented birdwatchers from exploring Indochina.
Another reason could be the familiarity birdwatchers had with the ecosystem where the bird was found.
"This habitat is of little interest to birdwatchers and ornithologists because the other species that it supports are some of the most widespread and abundant birds in tropical Southeast Asia," the publication said.
Sadly, this newly identified species may be threatened with extinction, according to the study. They recommend classifying the Cambodian Tailorbird, one of two species found exclusively in Cambodia, as "Near Threatened" under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List, which determines the risk of extinction for a variety of plant and animal species.