It took several years before the Sulawesi streaked flycatcher (Muscicapa sodhii) finally got its name and this has something to do with scientists having to verify whether or not the bird is a new species.
The bird was first seen in a forest in Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia, in 1997 but it was initially believed to be the migratory species gray-streaked flycatchers, or Muscicapa griseisticta.
After visiting Central Sulawesi in 2011 and 2012 to search for and study the bird, however, J. Berton Harris, from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of the Princeton University, and colleagues confirmed that the mysterious bird is a new Muscicapa flycatcher species.
"Considering that 98 percent of the world's birds have been described, finding a new species is quite rare," Harris said. "And despite being a globally important avian hotspot, Sulawesi has largely gone unstudied by ornithologists."
The newly named bird, which is characterized by its short wings and mottled throat looks similar to the migratory gray-streaked flycatcher, which spends the winters in Sulawesi, but closer examination reveals the two birds have distinctly different characteristics. Its DNA also shows that it is remotely related to the gray-streaked flycatcher and has the closest resemblance to the Asian brown flycatcher (M. dauurica siamensis) in Thailand.
"The new species differs strongly from M. griseisticta in several morphological characters, song, and mtDNA," the researchers wrote in their study published in the journal PLOS ONE on Nov. 24. "Based on mtDNA, the new species is only distantly related to M. griseisticta, instead being a member of the M. dauurica clade."
The researchers also found that the feathers, body structure, songs and genetics of the Sulawesi bird are different from those of similar flycatchers indicating that it is indeed a new species.
By listening to and recording the bird's song, the researchers noted that the song it produces is similar to those made by other Asian bird species with chirps, trills and whistles albeit it has a higher pitch and does not have the lower-pitched notes produced by other species.
The new species of bird does not need pristine rainforests to survive but it depends on the tall trees in the forest. At the moment, the Sulawesi streaked flycatcher is not in danger of extinction but the researchers said that this may change if agriculture builds up in the region.