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Wed, March 7, 2007 : Last updated 20:58 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > Headlines > Bird comes back from the dead

Bird comes back from the dead

A wetland bird that has eluded scientists and bird-watchers since its discovery in India in 1867 has been re-discovered in Phetchaburi, an ornithologist from Mahidol University said.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Philip Round said the discovery of the large-billed reed warbler last March at Laem Phak Bia Environmental Research and Development Project in Phetcha-buri was exciting news for ornithologists across the world.

"The discovery confirms that the species is not extinct," he said.

Round said DNA analysis of feathers taken from the bird he found last year confirmed it was a large-billed reed warbler. The only other known specimen was collected 140 years ago in north-west India and stored at the Natural History Museum in London.

"This remarkable discovery gives ornithologists an added incentive to continue the search for the large-billed reed warbler in India," Asad Rahmani, director of the Bombay Natural History Society, said on the website of Birdlife International, a global alliance for bird conservation.

A report on the re-discovery of the bird would soon be published in the International Journal of Avian Biology, Round said.

"This discovery illustrates the importance of wetland habitats on the shores of the inner Gulf of Thailand and the remarkable bio-diversity they are home to," said Kritsana Kaewplang, director of the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand.

The small brown bird was caught in Thailand on March 27 last year by a group of local ornithologists.

Although it looked quite similar to other reed warblers, Round noticed that the bird in his hand had a longer beak and shorter wings than other members of the reed warbler family he had often seen.

Two feathers from the bird were sent for DNA analysis at Lund University, Sweden, with the results showing a perfect match with the DNA from the London museum's specimen. The bird was ringed with a tag and released back into the wetland area.

Only one specimen was discovered but Round said the DNA structure of the bird made him certain the population of large-billed reed warblers at Laem Phak Bia might be more than 40.

Pennapa Hongthong

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