Tuesday, March 18, 2008

There's a reason why the Togian white-eye is so elusive—there just aren't many of the tiny yellow-green birds left.

Since 1997, field biologists on Indonesia's Togian Islands in Sulawesi have gotten only fleeting glimpses of the brilliantly colored creature.

So when a team led by biologist Mochamad Indrawan finally secured a specimen, they sent the dead animal to Pamela Rasmussen, a well-known ornithologist at Michigan State University.

Rasmussen and colleagues confirmed it is a new species in the March edition of The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

The white-eye is part of a group of similar birds that inhabit Indonesia's remote tropical regions. But unlike its relatives, the newfound bird has no white coloring across its eyes and sings a higher-pitched, more lilting song.

With an extremely limited range near the coasts of three small islands, the bird likely qualifies for the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species, the experts said.

The white-eye's scarcity is not to human threats, Rasmussen told National Geographic News in an email, but further fieldwork will reveal more about its status.

"What this discovery highlights is that in some parts of the world there are still virtually unexplored islands where few ornithologists have worked," she said in a statement.

"The world still holds avian surprises for us."

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