ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2009) — A
new species of babbler has been described from Guangxi province in
south-west China close to the border with Vietnam. Named Nonggang
Babbler Stachyris nonggangensis, after the reserve at which it was
discovered, this new species is closely related to Sooty Babbler S.
herberti but is larger and has white crescent patches behind the ear
coverts and dark spots on the upper breast and throat.


Ornithologists, Zhou Fang and Jiang Aiwu from Guangxi University
first sighted the birds in surveys during 2005 and confirmed its
identity as an undescribed taxon the following year. A formal
description was published in a recent edition of ornithological journal
The Auk.

In general behaviour it resembles a wren-babbler of the genus
Napothera in that it prefers running to flying, and seems to spend most
of its time on the ground foraging for insects between rocks and under
fallen leaves. This is in contrast to other closely-related babbler
species that spend most of their time foraging in undergrowth and
trees, seldom coming to the ground. No nest has yet been found. About
100 pairs of the birds have been observed in Nonggang.

"I have been studying birds in the region since the 1970s but I had
never seen it before. Their habitat in the reserve is protected", Zhou
says. "But as they could also exist in the karst rainforest outside the
reserve, logging and burning wood to make charcoal pose a threat to
their wider habitat."

Its natural habitat is karst seasonal rainforest that, following selective cutting, is dominated by Burretiodendron hsienmu.

"The limestone area in south-western Guangxi is part of the
Indo-Burma global biodiversity hotspot and the south-east Chinese
Mountains Endemic Bird Area, and is one of the most typical tropical
karst regions in the world", Zhou continues. "The fragility of the
karst ecosystem and its destruction by people pose great threats to the
bird’s existence. Therefore, research and conservation of the birds in
this habitat is very urgent."

"This is exciting evidence that there could be many more interesting
discoveries awaiting ornithologists in China", said Dr Nigel Collar,
the Leventis Fellow in Conservation biology at BirdLife International.

This taxon will be assessed in due course by the BirdLife taxonomic
working group. If treated as a full species, its conservation status
will then be evaluated by BirdLife, the Red List Authority for birds on
the IUCN Red List of threatened species.


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