Belgian discovers new bird species in Indonesia


Philippe Verbelen, an ornithologist for Greenpeace Belgium, has discovered a new species of leaf warbler on the Indonesian island of Rote. This is a rare event. Only about ten new bird species are found every year.

Verbelen first spotted the bird in 2009 when he was actually searching for rare owls on Rote. The diminutive leaf warbler - related to the willow warbler and the chiffchaff - caught his attention during that field work. Verbelen noticed that it did not resemble the leaf warblers on the neighbouring island of Timor. It had a longer bill and the colour of its plumage seemed different. Verbelen therefore suspected that it might be a new species.

Verbelen did not return to investigate his suspicions further until 2014. Along with the University of Singapore and the Indonesian Scientific Institute for Biology, he succeeded in catching a specimen and taking a DNA sample. The analysis showed that it was indeed a new species, which is only found on Rote.

The bird has only just been discovered, but scientists have immediately warned of the growing threat posed by deforestation. The forests on the island are disappearing at a great rate. This is problematic for the bird, which spends much of its time in the canopy. If its natural habitat is not protected, it would be threatened with extinction.