A little-known warbler species unexpectedly reappeared recently after a long absence. The Large-billed Reed-warbler was first identified from a specimen collected in India in 1867. It was not seen again until March of 2006, when one was observed near Bangkok, Thailand. An ornithologist caught it as part of his regular bird banding work.
“Although reed-warblers are generally drab and look very similar, one of the birds I caught that morning struck me as very odd, something about it didn’t quite add up; it had a long beak and short wings,” said Round. “Then, it dawned on me—I was probably holding a Large-billed Reed-warbler. I was dumbstruck, it felt as if I was holding a living dodo.”The ornithologist who found the bird banded it and took feathers for DNA analysis, along with measurements and photographs. The analysis confirmed that the banded bird was the same species as the bird taken in 1867.
“This rediscovery of the Large-billed Reed-warbler on the shores of Inner Gulf of Thailand (a BirdLife Important Bird Area, IBA) illustrates the importance of wetland habitats and the remarkable biodiversity they are home to,” said Ms Kritsana Kaewplang, BCST Director. “It also demonstrates the contribution of routine monitoring and ringing of migratory birds at even well-known sites.”Meanwhile, another specimen of the species was discovered in a specimen collection at Tring. Ornithologists in India and Thailand plan to research the range and population status of the species, now that they know it still exists.
“This remarkable discovery gives Indian ornithologists an added incentive to continue our search for the Large-billed Reed-warbler in India,” said Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society. “Like the discovery of Bugun Liocichla last year in Arunachal Pradesh, it shows us just how much we still have to learn about our remarkable avifauna.”
Note: This species belongs to the family known as Old World Warblers (Sylviidae), not the New World Wood-Warblers (Parulidae).