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Bird discovery 'better than winning lottery' for Peter

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: February 28, 2013

By Lyn Barton

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WITH its drab black and white plumage, the sparrow-sized seabird might not look very exciting, but to Cornish ornithologist Peter Harrison it represents the discovery of a lifetime.

The Land's End-based expert led an international team which successfully found the new species of storm petrel off the coast of Chile.

The remarkable achievement makes it the first new member of the species to be discovered in 89 years and the first new seabird species to be unearthed in 55 years.

Mr Harrison said: "If we had won the lottery, we could not feel better."

The discovery has just been formally named in a scientific paper and will be known as the Pincoya, after a Chilean sea goddess said to live in seas near to where it was found.

Mr Harrison led the five-person international team when it found the Pincoya in waters south of the seaside town of Puerto Montt in southern Chile.

Only a handful of new bird species are discovered each year, usually in the corner of a remote jungle or at a seldom-visited mountain top.

The new species is a seabird, a group of birds that are generally thought to be wide-ranging and not easily overlooked.

There were previously thought to be 22 species, with the last discovery being that of Matsudaira's storm petrel in 1922, in waters off Japan.

The sparrow-sized storm petrels weigh just a few ounces and are the smallest of all seabirds, easily fitting into the palm of the hand.

The expedition team spread cod liver oil and fish scraps on the water to attract the small birds within range of specially designed net guns that were used to capture them.

The birds were then measured and photographed with blood and tissue samples taken for further biometric analysis.

Mr Harrison said that despite the fact the Pincoya had not been identified until now, the bird was quite a common sight in the area.

"Surprisingly, the new species appears to be relatively common with over 3,000 individuals observed in seas south of the small Chilean township of Puerto Montt," he said.

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