First-ever illustrated global bird classification reveals 400 new species

HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, Volume 1: Non-Passerines/Lynx Edicíons

First-ever illustrated global bird classification reveals 400 new species

Jia You is a news intern at Science

Today, the world wakes up to 46 new species of parrots, 36 new hummingbirds, and 26 new owls—thanks to an illustrated checklist of birds worldwide published by Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, the first of its kind. After 4 years gathering live footage and visiting specimens in museums, the researchers classified birds around the planet by assigning scores across five characteristics: measurements, songs, plumage, behaviors, and geographical relationships with one another. Based on these scores, they recognized 462 new bird species previously treated as subspecies. The new classification is important for global conservation efforts, as scientists consider a quarter of the newly recognized species threatened. For example, the blue-bearded helmetcrest (pictured on the left in the illustration above) hasn’t been seen in decades, and researchers suspect this hummingbird species could have already gone extinct. The new checklist spotlights three places for urgent actions: Indonesia’s Java island, small islands between Indonesia and the Philippines, and the Brazilian state of Para, which contains the easternmost Amazonian rainforest. BirdLife has used the checklist to compile the 2014 International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, a comprehensive global inventory of the conservation status of species.

Posted in Biology, Plants & Animals