A species of shearwater thought to have been extinct for 20 years has been discovered in the Ogasawara Islands, 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo.
It is the first time a bird species suspected of being extinct in Japan has been found since an albatross colony was rediscovered in the Torishima Islands six decades ago.
Researchers, including those at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, said the Ogasawara Islands could be the last remaining habitat for the species of shearwater, which was last observed in the Midway Islands in the early 1990s.
The researchers studied six specimens of shearwater that were discovered on the Ogasawara Islands between 1997 and 2011.
The researchers were to report on the discovery at an international conference on seabirds in Hawaii on Feb. 8.
A DNA test showed that the birds were the same species as the one that had inhabited the Midway Islands. The researchers said the birds were recognized as a new species last year.
Measuring about 25 to 30 centimeters in length and with a wingspan of 55 to 60 cm, the birds have blue legs and a long tail. They are small for shearwaters, of which there are more than 30 species.
Of six birds discovered, five were found shortly after they were killed by predators, probably rats.
A bird that was protected in 2005 later died.
However, the researchers believe that hundreds of shearwaters live on the islands, given recent sightings.
“There is no doubt that the birds remain (on the Ogasawara Islands), even though they likely number in just several hundreds,” a researcher said.
The researchers suggested the shearwater species be named “Ogasawara-hime-mizunagidori.”
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