New York: A new bird species discovered more than 15 years after it was first seen on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has been named after late ecologist and ornithologist Navjot Sodhi.
The newly named Sulawesi streaked flycatcher Muscicapa sodhii is distinguished by its mottled throat and short wings.
"Considering that 98 percent of the world's birds have been described, finding a new species is quite rare," said study co-author J. Berton C. Harris, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University.
The Latin name, the team gave to the bird, pays homage to late Sodhi who was Harris' former mentor and professor at the National University of Singapore.
Several animal species have been named after Sodhi, including a snail, a fish and a new genus and species of crab.
"The naming of so many species in honour of Sodhi shows how important he was to his students and collaborators. He probably would have been particularly pleased with our bird description, though, because he was an ornithologist, and so few bird species remain to be described," Harris noted.
The new species is markedly different from other flycatchers in its plumage (feathers), body structure, song and genetics - proving that it is a new species.
"Despite being a globally important avian hotspot, Sulawesi has largely gone unstudied by ornithologists," Harris added.
The new species found by Harris and his collaborators has awaited formal scientific description since 1997, when the bird was originally spotted in a patchy remnant of forest.
At the time, the Sulawesi birds were thought to be migratory gray-streaked flycatchers (Muscicapa griseisticta).
Harris and some of his collaborators traveled to Central Sulawesi in the summers of 2011 and 2012 to continue the search for the mysterious animal.
After weeks of camping near the town of Baku Bakulu, the researchers finally found the bird -- in the place it was originally seen -- in summer 2012, observing several of them.
The new bird is rather similar to other Asian species, producing whistles, chirps and trills but is slightly more high-pitched and lacks the lower-pitched notes that other species make.
"At this point, the species is not at risk for extinction. However, this could change if agriculture intensifies in this region," co-author Pam Rasmussen of Michigan State University pointed out.
The findings appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.