NMNH Scientists Publish Findings on a New Species of Bird

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  • Scientists from the National Museum of Natural History publish their findings on a new species of bird in Zootaxa. The olive-backed forest robin or Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus, was found by Smithsonian researchers in the forests of Gabon, Africa. The bird measures 4.5 inches in length and averages 18 grams in weight when it reaches adulthood. Males have black feathers on their heads, a fiery orange breast, yellow belly, white dot on their face in front of each eye and an olive back for which it is named. Females of the species look similar, but have a less vibrant color.
  • The olive-backed forest robin was first spotted in the forest in 2001, but mistaken by scientists as an immature specimen from a different species. When Brian Schmidt, a research ornithologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, returned to Washington, D.C. in 2003 he brought back three specimens of the olive-backed forest robin. While cataloging the specimens, Schmidt noticed distinct differences and soon discovered that this was a totally new species to science. DNA testing was done at the National Zoo and the results confirmed that this bird was genetically different from scientists previous guess.
  • The discovery of the new species excited researchers, since new species identification has become a very rare occurrence since the early 1900s.


  • Schmidt, Brian
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.) Division of Birds
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • "Stiphrornis Pyrrholaemus - New Bird Species Discovered In Africa," Science 2.0 website, August 15, 2008. http://www.science20.com/news_releases/stiphrornis_pyrrholaemus_new_bird_species_discovered_in_africa.
  • Brian Schmidt, Jeffrey T. Foster, George R. Angher, Kate L. Durrant, Robert C. Fleischer, "A new species of African Forest Robin from Gabon (Passeriformes: Muscicapidae: Stiphrornis)," Zootaxa, Zootaxa 1850: 1-68, August 15, 2008. http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/list/2008/zt01850.html

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


August 15, 2008


  • Animals
  • Birds
  • Field work
  • Species
  • Discoveries in science
  • Ornithology
  • Ornithology--Field work


  • Gabon
  • Africa

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