YANGON: A bird that was long thought to have gone extinct has been rediscovered in Myanmar after a team of scientists used a recording of its distinctive call to track it down.
The Jerdon's Babbler (chrysomma altirostre altirostre), a small brown bird similar in size to a house sparrow, was last spotted in Myanmar in 1941 and was thought to have died out altogether.
But a team of scientists in May 2014 managed to uncover multiple birds nesting in a small area of grassland in Myanmar's central Bago region, according to their report published in the latest edition of Birding Asia.
The scientists targeted some of the few remaining patches of wild grassland left along Myanmar's mighty Irrawaddy River, now one of the most heavily cultivated regions of the impoverished but emerging south-east Asian nation.
At one small patch of grassland near an abandoned agricultural station, the team heard what they thought could be the babbler's distinctive call, successfully recorded it and then played it.
"The bird readily came in to playback and revealed itself to be a magnificent adult Jerdon's Babbler," the team from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Myanmar's Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division and the National University of Singapore wrote in their report.
"Over the course of the next 48 hours, we repeatedly found the species at several locations in the immediate vicinity and managed to obtain blood samples and high quality photographs," they added.
Scientists in Singapore warned that the bird's survival is still far from guaranteed given pressure on Myanmar's few remaining grasslands.
"This discovery not only proves that the species still exists in Myanmar but that the habitat can still be found as well," Colin Poole, director of Wildlife Conservation Society's regional hub in Singapore, said in a statement.
"Future work is needed to identify remaining pockets of natural grassland and develop systems for local communities to conserve and benefit from them," he added.
Myanmar's quasi-civilian government replaced decades of brutal military rule in 2011. It has since embarked on a series of political reforms and shown itself to be far more open to foreign businesses and academic researchers than the country's generals were.
Myanmar has more species of bird than any other country in mainland Southeast Asia, with ornithologists saying this number is likely to increase if more scientific research is conducted.