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    New Flightless Bird Species Found Off Philippines Mon Aug 16, 8:02 PM ET By Ed Stoddard JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Scientists have discovered a new species of
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 17, 2004
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      New Flightless Bird Species Found Off Philippines

      Mon Aug 16, 8:02 PM ET
      By Ed Stoddard

      JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Scientists have discovered a new species of
      flightless bird on a remote island in the Philippines, the
      conservation group BirdLife International said on Tuesday.

      The rare find is dramatic as flightless birds on small islands are
      especially vulnerable to extinction from human activities.

      Many of the island species that have been categorized by science were
      long gone when biologists unearthed their bones.

      BirdLife International said the proposed name for the bird is the
      Calayan rail with the scientific name Gallirallus calayanensis. The
      bird, about the size of a crow, was found on the island of Calayan in
      the northern Philippines about 40 miles off the coast.

      "The Calayan rail is a relative of the internationally familiar
      moorhen, with bright red beak and legs contrasting sharply with its
      dark plumage," BirdLife said in a statement.

      "But unlike its familiar relative, the Calayan rail is flightless, or
      nearly so, and found only on the small island after which it is
      named."

      One or two new bird species are uncovered each year but this rail's
      flightless nature and unexplored location make it especially
      intriguing.

      "This is exceptional because it is flightless and no ornithologist
      had explored the island since 1903," Dr. Richard Thomas of BirdLife
      told Reuters by telephone from the group's British headquarters.

      Genevieve Broad, a biologist and one of the co-leaders of the
      Filipino-British expedition, said isolation had protected the species
      from human encroachment.

      "The island is 186 sq km and has only 8,500 people who are
      concentrated in one town in the south. There are few people in the
      middle of the island (where the birds are found) because there aren't
      any roads," she told Reuters.

      Isolation has also proved disastrous for flightless birds in the
      past. Many that evolved on remote islands with no predators have
      become what biologists term "ecologically naive" -- meaning they do
      not recognize danger from other animals.

      So when humans first arrived on small islands in the past, they found
      the flightless birds to be easy sources of protein and often wiped
      them out -- with the dodo of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius
      being the most famous.

      Most of the 22 species of rail which have become extinct since 1600
      were flightless. Eighteen of the 20 living species of flightless rail
      are considered to be threatened.
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