BEIJING, May 1 (UPI) -- An international team of biologists have identified a new bird species in China. Its discovery was detailed in the latest issue of the journal Avian Research.
The Sichuan bush warbler can be found in five provinces in the mountains of central China -- but not easily. It has remained undetected for decades, as it prefers pockets of dense, scrubby vegetation.
Despite its efforts to hide from prying scientists, the warbler's anonymity is regularly undone by its unique call. Now, thanks to the hard work of a team of biologists (including several from Michigan State), the unique call has been paired with a physical bird and given a name.
"The Sichuan bush warbler is exceedingly secretive and difficult to spot as its preferred habitat is dense brush and tea plantations," Pamela Rasmussen, co-author of the new study on the warbler and assistant curator at the Michigan State University Museum, explained in a press release.
"However, it distinguishes itself thanks to its distinctive song that consists of a low-pitched drawn-out buzz, followed by a shorter click, repeated in series," Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen and her colleagues found that the newly discovered species shares its habitat with a close relative, the russet bush warbler. DNA analysis revealed the cousins to share a large amount of genetic material and suggests the two shared a common ancestor some 850,000 years ago.
Both belong to the newly named family Locustellidae. The Sichuan bush warbler was given the scientific name Locustella chengi in honor of the late, great Cheng Tso-hsin, China's most famous and decorated ornithologist -- author of dozens of scientific papers and books, and founder of the Peking Natural History Museum.
"We wanted to honor Professor Cheng Tso-hsin for his unparalleled contributions to Chinese ornithology," Rasmussen said. "Many species are named for European explorers and monarchs but few bear the names of Asian scientists."
When not competing with with its cousin for habitat and food, the Sichuan bush warbler breeds at elevations up to 7,500 feet. But when found together, researchers observed that the Sichuan bush warbler prefers lower elevations.
Though it's taken some time for the new species to be identified, scientists say it is not endangered. The bird appears to enjoy a large swath of health mountain habitat.