This paper describes a new bird species of the genus Liocichla discovered near Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in western Arunachal Pradesh, India. While the taxon most closely resembles L. omeiensis, an endemic of China, the many points of difference in plumage, size and vocalisations indicate a new species. The known population is very small and only three (breeding?) pairs responded to song play back in May 2006. The plumage and the vocalisations are distinctive and therefore the paucity of records suggests a small and highly localized population.
Bugun Liocichla Liocichla bugunorum sp. nov.
Evaluating the relative status of taxa is not easy (Helbig et al. 2002), especially when all other congeners are allopatric. Visually and aurally, L. bugunorum is most similar to L. omeiensis but there are many points of difference between them: in vocalisations, ten features of plumage, and size (Table 1). While future surveys may extend their ranges towards each other the balance of probability of finding intermediate populations, showing a cline in all the above differences is low. Furthermore, L. bugunorum differs from L. omeiensis and from L. steerii in its plumage as much as the latter differ between themselves. L. omeiensis was elevated from subspecies (of L. steerii) to species (Cheng 1987). These factors make a strong case for assigning specific rank to the Eaglenest taxon.
On the lack of a full specimen
Given the very small known population, I felt it would be inappropriate to collect a specimen, especially as that would have affected one of only three known (breeding?) pairs. So only some feathers which had worked loose (after the photographs were taken) were collected as type material. Should the census planned for next season indicate a larger population, steps will be taken to obtain a full specimen after seeking permission from the appropriate authorities.
Etymology: All observations of this taxon, except the first, were carried out during field work under the Eaglenest Biodiversity Project (Athreya 2005, 2006). Local community participation and development have been the cornerstones of our conservation efforts there and Mr Indi Glow of the Bugun tribe has played a very critical role throughout the project. Furthermore, all sightings of the taxon except one have been in Bugun community forest. It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the contribution of Mr. Indi Glow and others by naming the new taxon after their Bugun tribe. The word Bugun (both ‘u’ rhyme with “put”) is a masculine term used by the community to refer to themselves. It is believed to mean “people of the valley = valley dwellers” but the etymology is uncertain and its origins may lie in another language. The specific name
bugunorum [= (Liocichla) of the Buguns] is the invariable genitive plural of the latinised noun Bugunus.
Athreya, Ramana. 2006. A New Species of Liocichla (Aves:Timaliidae) from Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Indian Birds. 2(4): 82-94.
A. Townsend Peterson and Monica Pape. 2006. Potential geographic distribution of the Bugun Liocichla Liocichla bugunorum, a poorly-known species from north-eastern India. Indian Birds. 2 (6): 146–149.