New Subspecies Discovered in Columbia

The more than 100 kilometer long Serrania de los Yariguies Mountain Range in Columbia has remained unexplored until fairly recently when, under the auspices of Fundación ProAves, researchers began a survey focusing mainly on the birdlife in the area. So far, these efforts have yielded two new bird species and a new species of butterfly. The first new bird discovery has been named the Yariguies Brush-Finch, while the latest discovery has been named in honor of conservationist Robert Giles – Scytalopus griseicollis gilesi.

Scytalopus griseicollis gilesi is a subspecies of the Pale-bellied Tapaculo. It was discovered by researchers Jorge Avendano and Thomas Donegan during a ProAves organized exploration of the Yariguies Mountains. ProAves is the Columbian bird conservation organization which was instrumental in setting up the ProAves Cerulean Warbler nature reserve based in the Yariguies, as well as numerous other conservation projects throughout Columbia. ProAves are supported by the BP Conservation Program which is collaboration between BP, BirdLife International, Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The description of the newly discovered subspecies was published recently in the Ornitología Colombiana, a scientific journal. The plumage of this subspecies is primarily grey with rufous (reddish-brown) on the vent and rump and a darker black, longer tail than the other Pale-Bellied Tapaculos. Another distinguishing factor of the new subspecies is some of its calls, which are distinctly different from the Pale-Bellied Tapaculos.

Researchers on the expeditions that brought to light the two new bird species and the new butterfly, have also discovered quite a number of what are believed to be new species, but are awaiting scientific description and confirmation before these can be published. In addition to these discoveries, the expedition team found what are considered to be the world’s most viable populations of a number of critically endangered bird species. These discoveries led to the establishment of a 78,837 hectare National Park, in addition to the ProAves 545 hectare nature reserve which is located adjacent to the National Park.

The discovery of the new subspecies resulted in a substantial revision of the taxonomy of both Colombian and Venezuelan Tapaculos being undertaken. Because the plumage of different species of Tapaculos is often quite similar, these birds are among the least known of all Colombian birds. It is mainly their songs that help birders to differentiate between species.

Researchers are finding exploration of the Serrania de los Yariguies Mountain Range in Columbia very rewarding, and birding enthusiasts will no doubt be interested to learn of further discoveries.