New bird species in South America

Currently, there are more than 9,000 species of birds in the world. More than 3,000 species of birds live in South America alone, and this includes more than 300 species of hummingbirds that exist only in the New World. As recently as five years ago, a newfound bird species was as rare as a robin-egg blue moon. But a new look at bird territories and the natural features that confine bird territories has led ornithologists to the discovery of new bird species.

The new discoveries of species are, of course, concluded with state-of-the-art DNA analysis equipment where absolute identification is made under the microscope. Ornithologists are finding bird species distributed throughout a region that were believed to be one species, but are actually two species. Ground Zero for the new discoveries is the continent with the richest bird diversity in the world, South America—to be more specific, the Amazon basin. Ornithologists have found forest-dwelling birds that travel little during their lifetime to have been isolated by the Amazon River. Though these birds exist on both sides of the Amazon, none of them will fly over it. Until now, some birds that look identical to birds on the other side of the Amazon were thought to be the same species. However, DNA analysis says they are different, and some behaviors also separate the north siders of the river from the south siders of the river. The south siders will not respond to the north siders’ mating call because it is different. Therefore, they will not mate.

Now ornithologists are discovering that it’s not only the Amazon River that’s made new species; other rivers in the basin have isolated and divided smaller-ranging species. There is even talk of other common natural feature barriers, causing new bird species through isolation in the Amazon basin. Hundreds of new bird species are expected to be discovered in South America, thanks to the new isolation approach methodology. New species are being discovered quickly, but not at a rate comparable to the Amazon’s destruction. You don’t hear much about the Amazon’s destruction these days, but it’s as intense as ever. We have sprawl, but they have slash and burn. Our land has been raped many times, but the Amazon is virgin. We can only hope that the discovery of new bird species in South America will add to its value and therefore help slow down the Amazon’s destruction, or stop it altogether. South American countries tell us repeatedly that we should clean up our act before we point fingers at them.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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