A rare songbird has become so threatened that it has started to lose its song, say scientists, the BBC reports.
The regent honeyeater, once abundant in south-eastern Australia, is now listed as critically endangered; just 300 individuals remain in the world.
“They don’t get the chance to hang around with other honeyeaters and learn what they’re supposed to sound like,” explained Dr Ross Crates.
Dr Crates, a member of the Difficult Bird Research Group at the Australian National University in Canberra, is now trying to preserve the birds’ song by teaching captive honeyeaters the songs of their wild relatives.
The researchers had not set out to study the song of the regent honeyeater, but simply to find the birds.
“They’re so rare and the area they could occupy is so big – probably 10 times the size of the UK – that we were looking for a needle in a haystack,” said Dr Crates.
During this painstaking search, he started to notice birds that were “singing weird songs”.
He recalled: “They didn’t sound anything like a regent honeyeater – they sounded like different species.”
Songbirds learn their songs the same way that humans learn how to speak.
In a note of conservation hope, the scientists are using their recordings of wild birds to teach captive honeyeaters their own song.