Cambodian tailorbird: A new species seen in Phnom Penh

Orthotomus chaktomuk Studies to differentiate the new species from other tailorbirds included analyses of their songs

Related Stories

A species of bird that is completely new to science has been discovered - hiding in plain sight in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh.

The Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk), as it has been named, was first spotted in 2009 during routine checks for avian flu.

More specimens have since been found in regions around the city and discerned from similar tailorbird species.

The discovery is outlined in the Oriental Bird Club journal, Forktail.

Tailorbirds are in the warbler family, and get their name from the meticulous preparation of their nests, weaving leaves together.

A detailed set of tests - from the birds' plumage to their songs and their genes - has now shown that O. chaktomuk is in fact a separate, new species.

It is exceptionally uncommon for undiscovered bird species to be found in urban contexts, but Oriental Bird Club council member Richard Thomas said that earlier in the year, he "went and saw this remarkable new tailorbird myself - in the middle of a road construction site".

Cambodia locator map

The authors of the paper suggest that O. chaktomuk inhabits a small area, made up largely of dense scrubland in the floodplain of the Mekong river - at the edge of which Phnom Penh lies.

Birdwatchers do not tend to target this kind of ecosystem because most of the species it supports are abundant and widespread elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

"The modern discovery of an un-described bird species within the limits of a large populous city - not to mention 30 minutes from my home - is extraordinary," said study co-author Simon Mahood of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"The discovery indicates that new species of birds may still be found in familiar and unexpected locations."

Because of the small and shrinking nature of the birds' habitat, the team has recommended that the bird be listed as "Near Threatened" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Science & Environment stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

BBC Future

(Getty Images)

‘Why I want to die at 75’

The folly of aiming for ever-longer life Read more...

Programmes

  • St John's, CanadaThe Travel Show Watch

    It’s a ships’ symphony – listen to these freighters in Canada play music with their horns

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.