The island of New Guinea includes some of the least explored areas of the planet. We collaborate with Christophe Thébaud at the University of Toulouse, France, and Hidayat Ashari at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense – LIPI at Cibinong, Indonesia, to study the biogeography and systematics of select avian groups from this fascinating part of the world. In 2014 we joined a two-month expedition to New Guinea’s Bird’s Neck region in West Papua (see link to a full documentary below), led by the Institut de la Recherche pour le Development (IRD, France), and we had the opportunity to explore the Kumawa Mountains, a remote mountain range that had been previously visited only by Jared Diamond in the early 1980’s. We sampled understory birds using mist-nets at an elevation of 1200 m, and made several interesting observations. We detected species not previously reported for this area (Sericornis spilodera and Symposiachrus axillaris), and we captured an individual of what could represent a new species of berrypecker in the genus Melanocharis. It seems to be related to Melanocharis longicauda but with satin-white underparts and larger size, apparently similar to birds observed by David Gibbs in the nearby Fakfak Mountains in his 1994 expedition. Molecular analyses are underway to determine the degree of divergence relative to other congeners.
We conducted a second expedition to the Kumawa Mountains in October and November 2017, and captured three more males of the new Melanocharis species. Check out this little home video of this last expedition, showing the amazingly pristine lowland and cloud forests in the Kumawas:
And Click on one of these links to view an excellent professional documentary on our 2014 expedition!