Elusive songbird may not have existed

A rare bird species known as the Liberian Greenbul may actually be a subset of the more common Iceterine Greenbul.
By Robert Balkovich | Oct 10, 2017
New stunning evidence shows that one of the world's most elusive birds may have never existed, a paper published in the Journal of Ornithology reports.

Researchers have spent quite a bit of time over the past few decades trying to track down a rare birdknown as the Liberian Greenbul. Scientists first found the species in the forests of West Africa during the 1980's, butit has not been seen since. In fact, the only evidence of the bird on record is a single specimen uncovered in its natural habitat during 1984.

When scientists first found the Liberian Greenbul, they quickly realized it was almost identical to another species known as the Icterine Greenbul. In fact, the only difference between the two animals is that the icterine has white markings on its wing, while the liberian does not.

Though researchers have wanted to study that difference for sometime, civil wars in the area around the birds' habitat have kept them away from the forests for almost 25 years.Two trips to the region were finally conducted in 2010 and 2013, but neither found any sign of the bird.

As a result, there is only one known specimen on record. Such scarcity led scientists to believe the species is one of the rarest on Earth.

"The Liberian Greenbul has gained almost 'mythical' status since it was sighted in the '80s," said lead author Martin Collinson, a geneticist from the University of Aberdeen's Institute of Medical Sciences, in a statement.

However, the information laid out in the new study shows the bird may not be as elusive as previously thought. That is because the hard-to-find animal may not be its own species. Rather, it may simply be a variant of the Icterine Greenbul.

To find this, the team conducted a DNA analysis of both the Icterine Greenbul and the Liberian Greenbul. The thorough research revealed no significant genetic differences between the birds, which suggests they are likely the same species.

This finding is important because it contradicts past analyses that state greenbul species show significant genetic differences. Not only that, but it may help solve a 30 year mystery and show that the bird scientists have spent so much time looking for has been right in front of them the whole time.

"We can't say definitively that the Liberian Greenbul is the same bird as the Iceterine Greenbul but we have presented enough evidence that makes any other explanation seem highly unlikely," said Collinson, according to Tech Times.


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