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New Bird Species in North America!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The newly described Dun Mountain Warbler, Pseudoseiurus monochromis, as painted by ME!

Gentle readers:

I’ve been holding this story in for weeks. I’m about to burst with excitement. How often does a bird painter get asked to depict a newly discovered species—in North America?? It’s every bird painter’s best dream. But enough of my yakkin'. I’ll let the paintings and the press release speak for themselves:

Ornithologists from the National Bird Observatory (NBO) in Osprey Chalk, Connecticut, are pleased to announce the discovery of a North American bird species that is new to science. The dun mountain warbler (Pseudoseiurus monochromis) was recently discovered by bear hunters on all-terrain vehicles trying to reach forested habitat on the far side of a 10,000-acre mountaintop removal site in southern West Virginia. The species was described by ornithologists from the NBO, who were alerted to its existence when the West Virginia bear hunters (who were being filmed for a reality television show) remarked on camera that "it was the only thing we seen that was alive for miles around."

"This species has apparently moved into the expansive wastelands left behind by mountaintop removal (MTR), and is thriving there," said Patrick Fitzmichael, director of the NBO and chairman of the E. R. Hare Citizen Science Endowment at the NBO. "We found more than 35 nests in southern West Virginia in just one weekend of searching. We think that this population grew out of remnant bands of birds that were living and apparently breeding above the treeline in the Appalachians on scree slopes where no one in their right mind would ever go for birding or anything else."

The natural history of the dun mountain warbler is most unusual. It nests on barren, rocky ground in mountaintop removal sites, laying its eggs among the stones and exposed clay. It flips rocks and pebbles looking for invertebrates, colonizing recent MTR sites, scavenging prey from reptiles and amphibians to insects, even following earth moving equipment with an alert expression and pertly wagging tail, waiting to see what is stirred up by the digging.  

The plumage of the dun mountain warbler is described as dirt-brown and gray—or dun—which helps the bird and its cryptically colored eggs to blend in perfectly with their surroundings. Little is known about the dun mountain warbler's courtship, but field researchers were able to catch a short recording of its song, which is described as "a loud beeping tone similar to a piece of heavy earth-moving equipment backing up."

A spokesperson for the Consolation Coal Company reacted this way to the announcement: "We've known for years that our efforts to turn unusable tree-choked mountain habitat into nice, flat, open areas would be good for the environment. If a bird lays a egg on a mountain, what happens? It rolls to the bottom and breaks. The baby bird dies. We're happy that nature is finally realizing that our mining operations not only mean jobs for the local community, but they also make good places for birds to nest. Now THAT's family values, which is what we've always stood for."

Thus far, the dun mountain warbler seems to find its center of abundance in southern West Virginia's coal country, and NBO is mounting expeditions to neighboring states of Kentucky and Tennessee to survey MTR sites there. The future looks bright for this specialized but opportunistic species as mountaintop removal proceeds apace. The Obama Administration has recommended a study to determine if the species needs more breeding habitat. "We're ready to approve more than 150 MTR mine site permits if it means we can help this rare warbler survive and even thrive in the future."

 The birding community reacted with great enthusiasm. Jeffrey Giordano, president of the American Birders' Society said. "This is AWESOME! A new bird for our members to chase after. This will certainly be our Bird of the Year for 2013!" (And I'm hoping I'll get to paint it then, too! I mean, not to be a Bird of the Year hog, but...who you gonna call, right?)

Bill Thomas III, editor of Birders' Watching Digest said, "This is the feel-good birding story of the year! More habitat for an endangered species--and a NEW one at that!"

The Old River Birding Festival in Oak Harbor, West Virginia, will be offering customized tours to see the dun mountain warbler from now through September. Contact the festival at


I was hoping to extend my patio this weekend. Do you think that might attract it across to the UK?

April 1 :)

Seiurusly! me thinkest you may have imbibed in some fermented paw paws... ;-)

Happy April 1st to you!

Lol! Susan E

Posted by Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 4:43 AM

I think we're on to you...pseudo serious indeed.
But a good one.


You almost got me!

I fear there will be no shortage of suitable habitat.

Science fiction?.....Thrush crossed Dipper?....Good for the coal companies?!....O rite of April 1! Made me laugh out loud.... :>)

Kathy in Delray Beach

Posted by Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 5:42 AM

If you like it


That's what all those fancy buttons at the bottom of the post are for!


Had me going for awhile.

I think you and FC are birds of a feather!!! Since I am not too far into birding, I bit the whole kernal. Just call me a sap sucker!!!
tammy in Al.

Posted by Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 6:35 AM

A great way to start my day and month, with a good round of chuckling. I'll be "sharing" this one! Thanks for the smiles!

Posted by Amy Girten April 1, 2012 at 7:16 AM

I knew that Giordano character didn't care about anything but listing!

Leave it you, Julie, to inject some biting commentary into this annual tradition. Superb!

You put a lot of time and talent into this spoof!

It is funny, as I had also found a "specialist" in my neck of the woods in Western PA: Marcellus's Dipper, a little-known species that survives downstream from pumping stations, with the specialty of being able to walk on floating gas well effluence, gleaning bugs from low-hanging shrubs and branches. They lay their eggs UNDERWATER, utilizing magma-warmed fissures along our newly-created fault lines from the earthquakes. Perhaps I should have you illustrate that, too... as Jimi said, "'scuze me while I groan and sign..."

Oh my, you had me almost until the end!

Posted by Wendy E April 1, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Wow! This is AMAZING! But Julie doesn't take in hype like that. Oh wait, what day is it? You got me.:)

Your luckiness knows no bounds! Such an amazing sight! I'm thinking that next year you're going to see and paint the missing link between dinosaurs and birds. I just know it. It's there in the ravaged mountains, brought to you by Consolation Coal. I'm looking forward to the post.

Fell for Chet's comment on his FB page. Then saw the comment about April Fool's--but still read the entire tale, er, story about the new bird species. LOL! Ditto what Kirby said: "Leave it you, Julie, to inject some biting commentary into this annual tradition. Superb!" What a work of art even though it brings a tinge of sadness to me. SAVE the natural environment, including reddish-brown bunnehs! :-)

It took about 7 seconds.
By the way Anne and I won the mega lottery! Yippeee!

Ya dun good with that one...

need directions - I am already heading down that way for a birding trip :)

beautiful renderings! Robin Chanin sent me over -- she's a big fan and I hear about your 'doings' all the time from her.

Well, I guess we can now say there is ONE positive of MTR, right?

Love it, love it. Missed the wonderful scientific name at first read.

Posted by Vicki Pletcher April 1, 2012 at 3:43 PM

Warblers that we love are colorful! Did you decide that this drab little species would immediately be recognized as unauthentic? What would your dream warbler look like, Julie? Would love to see your artistic vision!

Posted by Anonymous April 1, 2012 at 6:24 PM

Oh, that's easy, Anonymous. The chestnut-sided warbler is my dream warbler. That birdie has it all!

Three cheers for Mountain Top Removal! Perhaps we'll discover a new species of opportunistic finch that finds wayward seeds floating in the spills that will follow the construction of Keystone XL! Perhaps the Oily Redpoll?..thanks for the laugh

Can't think of anyone better to tell the story of this new found species. Congratulations on your fine and creative rendering!

How eggciting is THIS discovery and honor!!!!! Congratulations.... You star continues to rise....

No. Way. That was the Company's response? I am... speechless.

I feel stupid. Never mind!

I think you might want to come here and paint our next new one: the Barren Ground Mine-Wren.

Julie you neglected to mention that they are quick to supplement their diet with any unexploded dynamite they find lying around.

Julie, found it, the infamous "Dun Mountain Warbler". Great goof, complete with your signature fab narrative and honesty - really lovely art! The whole thing is clever and so fun. Absolutely LOVED the quote from the CCC about eggs rolling and family values - HI-LARIOUS! Thanks for directing me to this vintage blog, a real gem. BTW, was able to snag a copy of Letters From Eden off Amazon, and it's in pristine condition! Arrived yesterday pm, just prior to my reading of the Dump post. Lee and I flipped threw quickly; what a gorgeous book! That painting for winter with the bluebird on sumac - OMG. Beautiful beautiful. Now, we have both books, and are really looking forward to reading and savoring words and art. Also, love the photos on your blog including your kids and that goofy one of Chet with his lips wrapped around something or other. Later.......C.

Credit Bill Thompson III, spokesperson for Consolation Coal, for that quote about eggs rolling down mountains. Classic!

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