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New flightless bird found in Indian Islands

Subhash Chandra NS, Bangalore, Aug 12, 2012, DHNS : 23:53 IST

Second new bird to be found in Indian territory this year

Great Nicobar Crake
A group of scientists from the Zoological Survey of India have discovered a new species of bird.

The bird, called Rallina, otherwise known as the ‘Great Nicobar Crake’, is found in the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve. Scientists said that the bird was unknown before.

It was found while cataloguing local fauna and animal-life in the reserve, under the man and biosphere programme of Unesco, sponsored by Ministry of Environment and Forests.

In a paper published in BirdingASIA, authors S Rajesh Kumar, C Raghunathan and Pamela C Rasmusssen, an American ornithologist and Asian bird expert, said that the bird was discovered on November 21, 2011 at the Govind Nagar tsunami shelter. The shelter, located on the east coast of Great Nicobar, has been housing people displaced by the December 2004 tsunami.

Scientists noted that the bird was spotted as it was foraging for insects in the open for about 15 minutes. “It was photographed both in short grass and on gravel,”the paper said. “The bird was silent throughout the encounter, and when disturbed, ran quickly up a steep slope and hid rather than taking flight.”

S Rajesh Kumar thought that the bird had an odd plumage, resembling the Band-bellied Crake Porzana paykullii — making it the first instance of this migratory species being recorded in the Indian subcontinent. Rasmusssen added that the bird differed from any known species. “It surely represents a new species that has gone completely undetected by science until now,” the paper added.

The bird, now catalogued as a fast, running, flightless bird, is found near water bodies and has a thick and short bill. It mostly has a red plumage.

The find has been described as good news for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands after the recent controversies over the exploitation of local Jawaras tribespeople and the threat to the Narcondam Hornbill because of a military project.

According to international Union of Conservation Network, the Rallina belongs to a rare species of bird.

So far, eight species with the genus, Rallina, have been found in Australia and Asian continents. This is the second new bird to be found in Indian territory.

In February, Jugal Tiwari, a bird expert from Rajasthan, discovered the Pale Rock Sparrow or Pale Rockfinch in the Rann of Kutch.

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