Spectacled Flowerpecker Makes Its Debut

The spectacled flowerpecker has only now been officially named and characterized by scientists, despite making appearances around Borneo for more than a decade.

AsianScientist (Dec. 17, 2019) – An international team of scientists has identified and described a new species of bird native to Borneo. Their findings are published in the journal Zootaxa.

The tropical island of Borneo in Southeast Asia is home to hundreds of species of birds, including dozens that can be seen nowhere else in the world. In 2009, a group of birders photographed a stout, pot-bellied bird with a stubby bill and distinctive facial markings—prominent white arcs above and below the eyes that give the bird its spectacled appearance.

Over the next decade, birds matching that description were spotted periodically in lowland forsts around the island, but it was not until recently that Mr. Christopher Milensky and Mr. Jacob Saucier of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, US, formally described the new species that now goes by the name Dicaeum dayakorum. The name honors the Dayaks, the people who live in and are working to protect the island’s forests.

The researchers confirmed that the bird belongs to a colorful family of fruit-eating birds known as flowerpeckers which are found throughout tropical southern Asia, Australia and nearby islands. However, molecular analysis revealed that the new species is not closely related to any other known flowerpecker.

“It’s a whole new species that distinctly stands out,” Saucier said.

The Smithsonian team also analyzed the bird’s diet. Like other flowerpeckers, the new species has been spotted eating mistletoe, a parasitic plant that grows high in the forest canopy. Through DNA analysis and close inspection of seeds from the bird’s gut, the team was able to identify the type of mistletoe that the bird eats. This information gives researchers a new perspective on this bird’s ecological needs and habitat preferences.

“We think that wherever primary forest and mistletoe occur, there’s a good chance this bird could be there,” Saucier said.

The researchers hope their discovery will bring attention to the unexplored diversity that remains in the forests of Borneo—and the importance of conserving these threatened ecosystems.

The article can be found at: Saucier et al. (2019) A Distinctive New Species of Flowerpecker (Passeriformes: Dicaeidae) from Borneo.


Source: Smithsonian; Photo: John Anderton.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist