The species lives in the lowlands of Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia that, the new research paper explains, is "one of Earth's least-known areas" for ornithologists. The island is home to a number of recently discovered species.
Finding -- let alone confirming -- the Sulawesi streaked flycatcher took a lot of work. The bird rarely sings and likes to hang out high in the canopies of the forests it frequents, as The Wall Street Journal noted.
Researchers spent two summers collecting specimens in 2011 and 2012 in an effort to determine whether the bird first seen in a "patchy remnant of forest" on the island was really a new species.
The song is "rather similar to other Asian species, producing whistles, chirps and trills, but is slightly more high-pitched and lacks the lower-pitched notes that other species make," Princeton University said in a statement announcing the findings.
The team also listened -- and recorded. The Sulawesi streaked flycatcher's bird song, while quiet, is unique to the species, the researchers found. You can listen to a recording of the song for yourself here.
There are also physical differences to other, similar species. In the large image included in this post, the new flycatcher species is seen in the upper left and center illustrations; two similar flycatcher species are seen in the bottom two illustrations and at the top right.
While the new flycatcher's plumage is similar to the others', its feathers are, in fact, unique. On top of that, the new species has shorter wings, a more pronounced hook to its bill, and a shorter tail compared to other species to which researchers previously believed the bird might have belonged.
There's another difference between the Sulawesi streaked flycatcher and many similar species: Its hardiness in the face of deforestation, at least for now. "At this point, the species is not at risk for extinction. However, this could change if agriculture intensifies in this region," Pam Rasmussen of Michigan State University said in a statement.
The flycatcher appears to be able to survive in forests left intact by farmers, instead of relying on pristine rain forests. However, as one researcher, J. Berton C. Harris, told The Wall Street Journal, the team didn't find any specimens of the bird in "rice fields or other monocultures." If the sparse forests in the area currently left standing by farmers are cleared, the new species "will probably be in trouble.”
So when you name a bird that's been waiting 15 years, how do you choose?
Harris wrote on his Web site that the team took a part of its Latin name, Muscicapa sodhii, from Navjot Sodhi, who was Harris's PhD adviser, now deceased. "Navjot uncovered the effects of deforestation on Southeast Asian birds and was an outstanding mentor to me," he wrote.
The confirmation of the new species is big news in the world of bird science.
"Considering that 98 percent of the world's birds have been described, finding a new species is quite rare," Harris said in a news release.