Stop The Presses - There's A New Frogmouth

According to the press release, "Your bird field guide may be out of date now that University of Florida scientists discovered a new genus of frogmouth bird on a South Pacific island." Because so many of us have a frogmouth section in our North American guides.

Frogmouths are named for the huge, wide, strong beak that resembles a frog's mouth--here is a link to a photo of some live frogmouths to give you an idea.; but their beak also sports a small, sharp hook more like an owl's. Steadman said their beaks are like no other bird's in the world. Frogmouths are predators and eat insects, rodents, small birds -- and yes, even frogs. These birds are also well known for their camouflage--three great examples here, here and here.

According to the press release, the perspective on the scale of evolutionary difference between genera, consider that modern humans and Neanderthals are different species within the same genus (Homo), while chimpanzees are our living relatives from a closely related genus (Pan), but that we share the same taxonomic family (Hominidae) with our chimp cousins.

The exciting news is that David Steadman and Andrew Kratter, ornithologists at the Florida Museum of Natural History, found the new genus of frogmouth while on a collecting expedition in the Solomon Islands. It is the first frogmouth from these islands to be caught by scientists in more than 100 years. They immediately recognized it was something different.

"This discovery underscores that birds on remote Pacific islands are still poorly known, scientifically speaking," Steadman said. "Without the help of local hunters, we probably would have overlooked the frogmouth."

Originally, the bird was misclassified (gasp) as a subspecies of the Australian Marbled Frogmouth, Podargus ocellatus. The blunder went undetected for decades (gasp again), until a collecting trip led by Kratter in 1998 turned up a specimen on Isabel, a 1,500-square-mile island in the Solomons. Today, the only museum specimen of this bird in the world, with an associated skin and skeleton, is housed at the Florida Museum (oooo, ahhhhhh).

Read the full press release here.