July 30, 2009 / 8:18 AM / 9 years ago

Bizarre bald songbird found living in Laos

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - An odd-looking bald songbird has been discovered in a rugged region of Laos, the first find of this kind in Asia for more than a century, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said on Thursday.

Scientists from the WCS and University of Melbourne, who found the bird, said this was the only example of a bald songbird in mainland Asia and the first new species of bulbul -- a family of about 130 species -- discovered in Asia in over 100 years. They have dubbed it the “bare-faced bulbul” because of the lack of feathers on its face and part of its head.

They described it as a thrush-sized bird that was greenish-olive with a light-colored breast, featherless, pink face with bluish skin around the eye extending to the bill and a narrow line of hair-like feathers down the center of the crown.

“It’s always exciting to discover a new species, but this one is especially unique because it is the only bald songbird in Asia,” said Colin Poole, director of Asia programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society, in a statement.

The bird appeared to be mainly tree-dwelling and was found in an area of sparse forest on rocky limestone outcrops in Savannakhet province -- a little-visited habitat known for unusual wildlife discoveries.

“Its apparent restriction to rather inhospitable habitat helps to explain why such an extraordinary bird with conspicuous habits and a distinctive call has remained unnoticed for so long,” said Iain Woxvold of the University of Melbourne.

In the same area several years ago, scientists found a new species of rodent, a rock rat called the kha-nyou, and a unique striped rabbit.

A description of the new species is published in the July issue of the Oriental Bird Club’s journal Forktail.

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Sugita Katyal

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