A Calayan Rail is held after its discovery by Filipino and British wildlife researchers on the tiny forested island of Calayan in the northern Philippines, in this undated image made available by the expedition. Unlike its close relative the moorhen, the Calayan rail is 'almost certainly flightless' and may be new to science, the British conservation group BirdLife International said Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004. (AP Photo/Des Allen)


New Bird Species Found in Philippines

By Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press Writer

08/17/04 - Yahoo News

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino and British wildlife researchers say they've stumbled upon what appears to be a new species of flightless bird found only on the tiny forested island of Calayan in the northern Philippines.

During a May expedition to Calayan, about 320 miles north of Manila, a team member was walking in the forest when she saw a small group of unfamiliar dark brown birds with distinctive orange-red bills and legs, the British conservation group BirdLife International said in a press release Tuesday.

The team reported seeing more adult and juvenile birds on several occasions over the next few days, the group said, and estimated there are probably 100-200 pairs in the area. The bird is locally known as "piding," but has never been documented, Filipino conservationist Carl Oliveros told The Associated Press.

Unlike its most similar relative, the Okinawa Rail, the Calayan Rail is "almost certainly flightless" and may be new to science. Rails usually have brown plumage and short wings that allow only brief flight.

"I find it quiet unusual," Oliveros said. "Most species have been documented, but this shows there is still a lot to be revealed to us. There may be other islands that have been overlooked by scientists."

The Calayan Rail was seen skulking in undergrowth or out on open trails, sometimes alone, sometimes in family groups, BirdLife said.

According to the statement, although the bird is not thought to be under immediate threat, the development of roads on the island of about 8,500 people may lead to new settlements and result in loss of habitat and the introduction of predators such as cats and rats.

"These newly discovered species are nearly always at risk from human influence, because most are on islands or mountains, where their ranges are naturally quite small," BirdLife's Nigel Collar was quoted as saying.

"We don't know a lot about the bird," Oliveros said. "Flightless birds are the most vulnerable. Based on a history of extinction, its future doesn't look that bright."

BirdLife said the new species' scientific name is Gallirallus calayanensis, named after Calayan island.

New Flightless Bird Species Found Off Philippines

By Ed Stoddard

08/16/04 - Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Scientists have discovered a new species of flightless bird on a remote island in the Philippines, the conservation group BirdLife International said on Tuesday.

The rare find is dramatic as flightless birds on small islands are especially vulnerable to extinction from human activities.

Many of the island species that have been categorized by science were long gone when biologists unearthed their bones.

BirdLife International said the proposed name for the bird is the Calayan rail with the scientific name Gallirallus calayanensis. The bird, about the size of a crow, was found on the island of Calayan in the northern Philippines about 40 miles off the coast.

"The Calayan rail is a relative of the internationally familiar moorhen, with bright red beak and legs contrasting sharply with its dark plumage," BirdLife said in a statement.

"But unlike its familiar relative, the Calayan rail is flightless, or nearly so, and found only on the small island after which it is named."

One or two new bird species are uncovered each year but this rail's flightless nature and unexplored location make it especially intriguing.

"This is exceptional because it is flightless and no ornithologist had explored the island since 1903," Dr. Richard Thomas of BirdLife told Reuters by telephone from the group's British headquarters.

Genevieve Broad, a biologist and one of the co-leaders of the Filipino-British expedition, said isolation had protected the species from human encroachment.

"The island is 186 sq km and has only 8,500 people who are concentrated in one town in the south. There are few people in the middle of the island (where the birds are found) because there aren't any roads," she told Reuters.

Isolation has also proved disastrous for flightless birds in the past. Many that evolved on remote islands with no predators have become what biologists term "ecologically naive" -- meaning they do not recognize danger from other animals.

So when humans first arrived on small islands in the past, they found the flightless birds to be easy sources of protein and often wiped them out -- with the dodo of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius being the most famous.

Most of the 22 species of rail which have become extinct since 1600 were flightless. Eighteen of the 20 living species of flightless rail are considered to be threatened.

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