Antpitta: Discovery

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ambience: Antpitta vocalizations

It’s a rare event to discover a new species of bird. The secret is to listen well. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In 1997, ornithologist Robert Ridgely discovered a new species of Antpitta in the highlands of Southern Ecuador. Here’s how he did it.

“If you’re inside the forest, you end up not observing all that much. That’s mainly because the growth is so thick the birds are relatively reclusive. We go through the forest and we listen for bird sounds, and we try to put a name on any bird that we hear. Well, what happened on that day was that we heard a voice very far off in the distance that we could not identify. Bird stopped and that was the end of it. We didn’t hear it again, for probably forty-five minutes. And then the miracle happened. And apparently the trail ended up about where the bird had been singing in the first place. And suddenly as we were standing on the trail – way, probably a half a mile from where we had first been – the bird started singing quite close to where I was standing, and I was able to make a tape recording of its voice. When you hear a bird singing and you want to see it, the procedure is simply to make a recording of that bird’s song, and then play it back at the singing bird. These birds are territorial, and the male – it was singing – responds to what he hears out of the tape recorder as if there was an intruding male in his territory. And he generally will come charging out to attempt to defend his territory. In this case, the bird responded very strongly. We had a very long, protracted view of a pair of the birds hopping in the bushes around us for over a half an hour.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Antpitta: Discovery

How does one discover a new species of bird? Listen up!
Air Date:10/21/2011
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: Antpitta vocalizations

It's a rare event to discover a new species of bird. The secret is to listen well. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In 1997, ornithologist Robert Ridgely discovered a new species of Antpitta in the highlands of Southern Ecuador. Here's how he did it.

"If you're inside the forest, you end up not observing all that much. That's mainly because the growth is so thick the birds are relatively reclusive. We go through the forest and we listen for bird sounds, and we try to put a name on any bird that we hear. Well, what happened on that day was that we heard a voice very far off in the distance that we could not identify. Bird stopped and that was the end of it. We didn't hear it again, for probably forty-five minutes. And then the miracle happened. And apparently the trail ended up about where the bird had been singing in the first place. And suddenly as we were standing on the trail - way, probably a half a mile from where we had first been - the bird started singing quite close to where I was standing, and I was able to make a tape recording of its voice. When you hear a bird singing and you want to see it, the procedure is simply to make a recording of that bird's song, and then play it back at the singing bird. These birds are territorial, and the male - it was singing - responds to what he hears out of the tape recorder as if there was an intruding male in his territory. And he generally will come charging out to attempt to defend his territory. In this case, the bird responded very strongly. We had a very long, protracted view of a pair of the birds hopping in the bushes around us for over a half an hour."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music