20/09/2012
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New barbet species in Peru

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Sira Barbet is already likely to be considered Vulnerable despite having only just been described by science. Photo: Michael G Harvey (Cornell University).
Sira Barbet is already likely to be considered Vulnerable despite having only just been described by science. Photo: Michael G Harvey (Cornell University).

The eastern Andean region of Peru has given up a new species of Capito barbet, a sister species to Scarlet-banded Barbet, a previously-known restricted range species found 250 miles to the north. The new species is called Sira Barbet C fitzpatricki.


The discovery reaffirms that the Andean mountains of South America are the most productive for those hoping to find new bird species, and further underlines the huge diversity of the range's – and indeed continent's – avifauna.


The species was discovered by the authors' team while exploring southern part of the Cerros del Sira region, when scouting for campsites in the Río Tzipani valley. Michael G Harvey made the initial discovery on 8 October 2008 when he noticed an unknown barbet similar to Scarlet-banded Barbet C wallacei in one of the mixed-species flocks so prevalent in the montane cloud forest there.

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During the following week, the team found further sites for the species nearby, collected eight specimens which were prepared as study skins and preserved in ethanol, and made numerous ecological and behavioural observations.


Sira Barbet differs from the closely-related Scarlet-banded Barbet by its rich red flanks, its thicker red breast band, whiter lower back colour and black outer thigh feathers with limited yellow flecking. It averages proportionately larger than the previously know species, too, and these difference make it different enough to qualify as a species under the phylogenetic species concept. The species do not overlap in range and the few vocalisations recorded appear very similar to the sister species, but reproductive isolation could not be assessed.


Sira Barbet is partially found in and near the Sira Communal Reserve, but the encroachment of mining and logging and the influence of climate change mean that this limited range species is already likely to be considered Vulnerable by the IUCN.


Reference
Seeholzer, G F, Winger, B M, Harvey, M G, Cáceres, A D and Weckstein J D. 2012. A new species of barbet (Capitonidae: Capito) from the Cerros del Sira, Ucayali, Peru. The Auk 129: 1-9.