A team of scientists from the Zoological Survey of India, have discovered a new bird species in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The new bird species named ‘Great Nicobar Crake’ is said to be from the Rallina family of birds and is the first new bird species to be discovered in India since independence.

The ZSI team had been listing the species found in Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve (GNBR) under the man and biosphere programme of UNESCO when they made the discovery. GNBR is one of the 17 biosphere reserves found in India.

Water Rail or Crakes come under the genus Rallina and are usually rare birds according to the scientists. According to IUCN too there is very little data available for birds of this category. So far 8 species under the genus Rallina have been reported from Australian and Asian continents. Among them 3 species are found in India including Andaman Crake or Rallina canningi which is endemic to Andaman.

“This is an extremely important discovery, the first (report of a new bird) by ZSI scientists since Independence,” K. Venkatraman, the director of ZSI, said hailing the effort.

This discovery has been published in the journal Birding ASIA Vol.17 (2012): 44-46 (authored by S. Rajesh Kumar, C. Raghunathan and P.C. Rasmusssen).

Rajesh Kumar first observed the bird at the Govind Nagar tsunami shelter on the east coast of the island, 6km from Campbell Bay. It was 6 am in the morning and it was looking for insects. When the other scientists tried to get a closer look to take pictures, the bird ran fast up a hill instead of flying away.

“The bird was silent throughout the encounter (while the scientists were trying to photograph it), and when disturbed, ran away quickly up a steep slope and hid rather than taking flight,” the scientists wrote in their report.

The team at that point did not realise that they were looking at a new species.

“It was dense tropical evergreen forest and we had been camping there for quite some time. We could barely take a couple of photographs before it sped away with great speed. We never thought that it was a new species at that point of time and believed that it as a new record from the area,” Raghunathan said.

“However, once back in Port Blair, we checked all the available information and found that it was different from any known species in numerous aspects and represents a new species. Subsequently Rasmussen was consulted, who also confirmed the new species status,” added the scientist.

About the Bird

The team describes the Great Nicobar Crake as a fast running bird that prefers to live near water bodies. Its bill is thick and short with a long neck and legs of moderate length. Its distinction is the bill which is pale green in color with broad black banded under parts, and heavy orange-red legs. This is unlike any other crake or water rail discovered earlier.

The scientists now plan to return to the islands to collect a specimen so that the bird can be formally and scientifically named.

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About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of indiasendangered.com. Her work has appeared in a number of international websites, dailies and magazines including The Wire, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, Down to Earth and Heritage India on issues related to environment and its conservation. She is also the author of Environment Science Essentials, a set of books for school children. She hopes this website provides a platform for people to be aware about species in the verge of extinction and heighten their conservation efforts.

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