Rediscovery of the Timor Bush Warbler Locustella timorensis on Alor and Timor, Wallacea: Clarifying taxonomic affinities, defining habitat and survey recommendations

Colin Trainor, Philippe Verbelen, Serge Hoste

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    The Timor Bush Warbler Locustella timorensis was first collected by Georg Stein on Mount Mutis, West Timor in 1932, but there have been no confirmed field observations since. Here we report on the discovery of a new population of bush warbler on Alor (9 September 2009), which prompted a search for, and subsequent rediscovery, of the nominate Timor Bush Warbler (20 December 2009) in Timor-Leste. We also undertook the first bush warbler searches in the mountains on Atauro Island, and the first ornithological exploration of the mountains of Pantar and Wetar islands. On Alor, at least 13 male bush warblers were heard singing from shrub and grass beneath woodland and forest edge at 859-1,250 m. On Timor, at least 40 males were heard during December, April and July from tall grassland below Mount Ramelau (1,720-2,100 m), Timor-Leste. The song structure of the Alor and Timor birds is similar, and close to Javan Bush Warbler L. montis of Java and Bali, as well as to recordings of Russet Bush Warbler L. mandelli of mainland Asia and Benguet Bush Warbler L. seebohmi from the Philippines. The song of the Alor bird is substantially higher pitched (mean min/max 3,233-4,980 kHz) than the Timor bird (2,928-4,761 kHz) and both are substantially higher pitched than Javan birds. Recordings of Russet Bush Warbler from mainland Asia are higher pitched than songs of all insular taxa, and the song of Benguet Bush Warbler is of a similar pitch to the Timor bird. Recent molecular studies have found that divergences between Javan Bush Warbler and the Russet Bush Warbler are slight, and the high degree of song similarity of the Alor and Timor populations to Javan Bush Warbler places them close to the Benguet Bush Warbler complex. The Timor Bush Warbler is recognised as Near Threatened' by IUCN, but this will require re-evaluation. On Alor, suitable habitat is extensive and under little threat, but grassland in the uplands of West and East Timor is intensively grazed and regularly burnt. Further field surveys are needed on both Timor and Alor to capture birds, clarify taxonomic relationships using molecular approaches, and further define habitat use and conservation status. Bush warblers were not recorded from Pantar, Atauro and Wetar islands. � 2011 BirdLife International.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)354-369
    Number of pages16
    JournalBird Conservation International
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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