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New Bird Species Discovered in China

04 May 2015 |Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences News Release

A new species of bird has been described from central China by a team of scientists from Sweden, China, the US, the UK and Vietnam. The team was lead by professor Per Alström, from the Swedish Species Information Centre at SLU.

The bird, named Sichuan Bush Warbler Locustella chengi, breeds in mountainous regions at c. 1000–2300 m. Its winter quarters are unknown.

It occurs in dense, herbaceous, grassy, scrubby, bushy vegetation, often tea plantations, and is exceedingly secretive and difficult to see.

It is mainly noticed thanks to its distinctive song that consists of a drawn-out harsh note followed by a shorter note that are repeated in series.

The Sichuan Bush Warbler is extremely similar to the Russet Bush Warbler, which occurs from northeast India to northern Southeast Asia and southeast China, but differs in proportions and, especially, song.

Analyses of mitochondrial DNA show that these two bush warblers are very closely related, and were estimated to have separated from a common ancestor c. 850,000 years ago.

The Sichuan Bush Warbler and Russet Bush Warbler can be found on the same mountain in some places, although they prefer different elevations, the former lower down than the latter.

Fortunately, the Sichuan Bush Warbler is locally common, and does not appear to be under any imminent threat.

The bird was named after the late professor Cheng Tso-hsin (1906–1998), China’s greatest ornithologist. The English name refers to Sichuan province, where the bird was first found.

More information
Professor Per Alström
Swedish Species Information Centre
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala
+46 70-454 69 65,

Professor Fumin Lei
Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing
+86 10 6480 7159,

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