from The New York Times..
By Thomas Fuller
June 26, 2013
BANGKOK — The discovery of new fauna conjures up images of Livingstone-like explorers trekking through malaria-infested jungles. But scientists working in Cambodia have reported a new species of bird in a decidedly less remote environment: the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
Simon Mahood, the lead author of an article released Wednesday in the Oriental Bird Club’s journal Forktail, says the bird’s primary habitat is about a 30 minutes’ drive from his home in Phnom Penh, “allowing for traffic.”
“I’ve always wanted to discover a bird species, but I never expected it would happen like this,” Mr. Mahood, who works for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Cambodia, said by telephone from Phnom Penh. “I certainly didn’t expect to be standing in flip-flops and shorts a half an hour from home.”
Roughly the same size as a wren, with white cheeks and a cinnamon cap, the bird was named the Cambodian tailorbird by the team that documented the discovery. Tailorbirds get their name from the way they build their nests, by threading spider silk or other fibers through a leaf, creating a sort of cradle.
Around the world, perhaps a half dozen new bird species are identified a year. In this case, the authors ascribe the discovery to a sort of ornithological peace dividend in Cambodia: after decades of conflict in the country, scientists are now able to study the country’s natural diversity without the dangers and distractions of civil war.
There are 12 other species of tailorbird, but the Orthotomus chaktomuk, the scientific name for the discovery announced Wednesday, is distinct in plumage and genetic makeup, Mr. Mahood said.
The first recorded netting of the Cambodian tailorbird was serendipity. Researchers studying whether avian influenza could be transmitted through small birds captured, photographed and released a Cambodian tailorbird in 2009 without realizing it was a new species. Mr. Mahood was intrigued by those photographs and subsequent ones and began the study that led to the discovery.
The Cambodian tailorbird was the second major Cambodia-related discovery announced this month. Last week, Australian archaeologists said they had confirmed the existence of a city, now buried in jungle, that was contemporary with the ruins of Angkor Wat. Scientists used lasers deployed from helicopters to uncover the network of canals and roads.