The bird, described in the current issue of the journal Avian Research, has been named Himalayan forest thrush Zoothera salimalii.

The discovery process for the Himalayan forest thrush began in 2009 when it was realised that what was considered a single species, the plain-backed thrush Zoothera mollissima, was in fact two different species in northeastern India, said Pamela Rasmussen from Michigan State University in the US.

Shashank Dalvi from Bengaluru-based National Centre of Biological Sciences was also part of the research team.

What first caught scientists' attention was the plain-backed thrush in the coniferous and mixed forest had a rather musical song, whereas those found in the same area - on bare rocky ground above the treeline - had a much harsher, scratchier, unmusical song.

Further analysis of plumage, structure, song, DNA and ecology from throughout the range of the plain-backed thrush revealed that a third species was present in central China. This was already known but was treated as a subspecies of plain-backed thrush. The scientists called it Sichuan forest thrush.

The song of the Sichuan forest thrush was found to be even more musical than the song of the Himalayan forest thrush. DNA analysis suggested that these three species have been genetically separated for several million years.

 

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