New Bird on The Block

All you bird-lovers, it’s time to say hello to a new species in the bird kingdom that has just been discovered. Capito fitzpatricki, discovered in the mountains of Peru, is the latest ‘official’ bird. It has been named after Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who himself has previously been involved in the discovery of six bird species.

The Andes in South America is a region with an unrivaled rate of new species discovery; however, a thorough exploration of these regions is hindered by the difficult terrain. In 2008, a group of researchers undertook an expedition to a region of the mountains called the “Cerros del Sira” and chanced upon this colourful bird, also called the ‘Sira barbet’ in a flock consisting of birds of multiple species. After 6 days of exploration in nearby regions, they found more samples of this bird.

Behold the newest bird known to mankind [Image credit: Cornell University]
Behold the newest bird known to mankind [Image credit: Cornell University]

Capito fitzpatrickibelongs to the group of birds called barbets. These are tropical, frugivorous (fruit-eating) birds characterized by big heads and bristles below their bills. They are greenish or brown with splashes of bright colours or white and are found in South and Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.

How can we be sure Capito fitzpatricki belongs to a different species and is not merely a distant cousin of an existing barbet species? Firstly, it has different plumage characteristics—it has different colourings on its thigh and lower back. Secondly, the DNA sequences of this species were compared with other species in the genera Capito. The divergence, or dissimilarity, in mitochondrial DNA sequence from fitzpatricki and its closest ‘genetic neighbour’ Capito wallacei was in general greater than the divergence seen between two species.

The discovery was published here.