WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A small greenish bird that has been playing hide-and-seek with ornithologists on a remote Indonesian island since 1996 was declared a newly discovered species on Friday and promptly recommended for endangered lists.
The new species is called the Togian white-eye, or Zosterops somadikartai.
It was first spotted by Mochamad Indrawan of the University of Indonesia and his colleague Sunarto, who like many Indonesians uses one name.
“We observed the species in the field from 1997 to 2003,” Indrawan said in a statement.
Dr. Pamela Rasmussen, a taxonomist at Michigan State University, completed the identification, reported in the March edition of The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
The researchers had to get one of the birds for examination and formal classification.
Togian white-eyes are small, greenish-colored and have conspicuous white eye-rings.
Its nearest relatives have a band of white feathers around their eyes but this energetic little bird, which travels in small groups, is less showy, the researchers said.
The new Togian white-eye has been seen only near the coasts of three small islands of the Togian Islands in central Sulawesi. Rasmussen said it likely falls into the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s category of endangered.
“This finding of the bird is only the beginning given the vast opportunities with Indonesian landscapes and seascapes of endemic flora and fauna,” Indrawan said.
“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 for us.”
Indonesia has 1,600 of the known 10,000 bird species.
Reporting by Maggie Fox, Editing by Michael Kahn and Jackie Frank