Sunday, 18 December 2011

Rare robin breeding sites found

Rare black-throated robins have been recorded in the Qinling mountains, north central China, by scientists.

The 14 new sightings double the total number for the species since its first discovery 125 years ago.

A team of Chinese and Swedish researchers located two breeding areas after hearing the males' distinctive calls.

The national nature reserves where the birds were found are also home to rare giant pandas and snub-nosed monkeys.

Also known as the blackthroat and black-throated blue robin, the species (Luscinia obscura) was first discovered in 1886.

The birds resemble a European robin in size and shape but the males sport a jet-black throat and chest rather than the familiar red.

To date, very little is known about the species and there have never been any definitive sightings of females.

"The species is extremely secretive and difficult to see in the dense bamboo where it lives," explained Prof Per Alstrom, of the Swedish Species Information Centre, a part of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala.

Prof Alstrom and colleagues were able to identify the birds' breeding grounds after hearing their distinctive song.

"It's likely that there are approximately as many females in the wild as there are males, but males are more easy to find [because] they sing," he said.

Read more here ...

By Ella Davies

Reporter, BBC Nature

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