ABOVE: A forest in Peleng

Five species and five subspecies of songbirds have been identified for the first time on islands near Sulawesi, Indonesia, according to a study published in Science on Thursday (January 9). Usually, five or six novel bird species are described per year worldwide, so these newly catalogued taxa represent a “remarkable expansion” in biodiversity, reports Science News.

Taliabu grasshopper-warbler (Locustella portenta)

Researchers led by Frank Rheindt, an evolutionary biologist at the National University of Singapore, and Dewi Prawiradilaga, an ornithologist at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in Jakarta, identified the birds on a 2013 research expedition to three remote, heavily forested islands: Taliabu, Peleng, and Batudaka. These areas are part of Wallacea, a biodiverse region containing many islands, most of which are Indonesian. Rheindt first glimpsed a few of the distinctive birds during a 2009 trip that...

The new species include the bright red-orange Taliabu Myzomela honeyeater (Myzomela wahe), the Togian jungle-flycatcher (Cyornis omissus omississimus), which has iridescent blue feathers and a yellow belly, and the Taliabu grasshopper-warbler (Locustella portenta), a brown bird with a cricket-like song.

The findings are “unusual in the fact that these birds have existed so long without being documented,” ornithologist Pamela Rasmussen, an ornithologist at Michigan State University who was not involved with the study, tells Science News. “There are very few places left that are likely to have so many [birds].”

Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at emakowski@the-scientist.com.

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