New Scientist heads to São Tomé to get up close with the island’s grosbeak – a really big bird:
Now it turns out the species was also misidentified, and it is actually the largest canary on the planet, 50 per cent heavier than the next largest species.
Although it is small for a bird, being only about 20 cm long, the size of a common or European starling, the canary is a giant compared with other members of its genus, which are slightly smaller than house sparrows. It is found only on São Tomé and is critically endangered.
In 1888, Francisco Newton, a Portuguese naturalist, collected the first three specimens. The bird then vanished from popular record until 101 years later, when a couple of birdwatchers chanced upon it.
Its size, strange flattened head and large beak caused confusion among ornithologists. As a result, it was placed in a separate genus, Neospiza, which simply means “new finch”.
Over many years of fieldwork on the island, Martim Melo from the University of Porto, Portugal, collected four new specimens. Genetic analysis now shows beyond doubt that the grosbeak is a canary (genus Crithagra). Its closest relative is a seedeater, Crithagra rufobrunnea, that is found on São Tomé and the neighbouring island of Príncipe.
Accordingly, Neospiza concolor has been renamed Crithagra concolor.
Cute photo at the link.