New Bald Songbird Species Discovered in Laos

Photo Credit: Iain Woxvold, University of Melbourne

Deep within the rugged forests of Laos, researchers have discovered a new bald songbird – the first of its kind in mainland Asia, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. Nicknamed the “Bare-faced Bulbul,” the thrush-sized bird has a featherless face, large bulbous eyes surrounded by blue skin, a thin mohawk of feathers along its crown, and olive-green body feathers. The bizarre bird is also the first new species of bulbul - a family of about 130 species - identified in Asia in over 100 years.

Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and University of Melbourne found the songbird in the same remote and relatively unexplored ecosystem where the Laotian rock rat, or Kha-nyou, was discovered in 2002. “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 from the University of Melbourne in a statement.

According to preliminary research, the bird appears to be mostly tree-dwelling and luckily, much of its forest-limestone formation habitat falls within conservation areas in Laos. But the newly discovered species is not completely safe; potential regional limestone mining and agricultural activities have scientists worried. Ironically enough, it was a mining company, MMG (Minerals and Metals Group), that funded and managed the research project.

The research team published their findings in the August issue of Forktail, the journal of the Oriental Bird Club.

For more information, head to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s website by clicking here.

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