Monday, March 9, 2015

[Ornithology • 2014] The Rediscovery of Myanmar’s Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre altirostre in the Ayeyarwady floodplain, Myanmar

Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre altirostre, Udo, Yangon region, 31 May 2014.


One of the least-known species adapted to life in Asia’s grasslands is the Vulnerable Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre, first found by T. C. Jerdon in January 1862 near Thayetmyo, Magway region (19.326°N 95.182°E) in the Ayeyarwady floodplain, Myanmar (Jerdon 1862). Other races were soon found— griseigulare (Hume 1877) from the lower Ganga and Brahmaputra plains of northeast South Asia and scindicum (Harington 1915) from the Indus watershed in Pakistan and Punjab. Despite being the first population to be discovered, Myanmar’s Jerdon’s Babbler C. a. altirostre has spent most of its existence lost somewhere in the Ayeyarwady–Sitaung plain; after its initial discovery the bird quickly disappeared back into the long grass. Eugene Oates (see BirdLife International 2001) collected a few more specimens in the late 1870s and even suggested that it was common in the area between Wau (17.477°N 96.677°E) and Taungoo (18.934°N 96.433°E), Bago region. When Bertram Smythies, Herbert Smith and Peter Garthwaite published the Birds of Burma in 1940, the bird had not been seen again and they stated that the vast grasslands of Jerdon’s and Oates’s days had already been converted to rice paddies, admitting that no-one knew if Jerdon’s Babbler was still present. Fortunately, soon after the book was published, Smith decided to find out. On 9 July 1941 Smith collected a single specimen in the remnants of a huge wetland near Myitkyo (17.605°N 96.809°E), in the Sitaung floodplain. Within a year of this rediscovery Rangoon (now Yangon) was occupied by Japan, and both Smith and Smythies had left Myanmar. In 1953 Smythies added Smith’s discovery to the next edition of his book, admitting that the bird had once again disappeared, perhaps for good.


Frank E. Rheindt, Robert Tizard, Nila Pwint and Naing Lin. 2014. The Rediscovery of Myanmar’s Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre altirostreBirdingASIA. 22 (2014): 13–15.

Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre altirostre in the hand, Udo, Yangon region, Myanmar.
photo: Robert Tizard/WCS | 31 May 2014

'Extinct' Bird Rediscovered in Myanmar, Surprising Scientists via @NatGeo