New Bird on the Block

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It's not often that a new bird is discovered--worldwide, it happens maybe once a year. Bugun Liocichla, a breed of babbler that scientist types will come to know as Liocichla bugunorum, last week officially became the first bird discovered in India in more than a half-century. Ramana Athreya, a professional astronomer and amateur ornithologist in the northeastern part of the country, captured two of the birds--which take their name from the local Bugun tribe--in May, but the find had to be vetted by the scientific community before it became official. Since the species is so rare, Athreya did not want to take the usual tack: killing a specimen, stuffing it, then shipping it off to a museum. Instead, he took feathers and pictures and recorded the birds' song before releasing them, so that scientists could verify his claim. For Athreya, it was a triumph. He first saw the species in 1995 but didn't spot it again until last year. "I began to doubt what I had seen," says Athreya. Now the whole world sees it.