Bahamas from the ISS

Astronaut Scott Kelly took this striking photo from the International Space Station in July. The photo shows part of the coral-based archipelago that makes up The Commonwealth of The Bahamas; it also shows the way currents and sediments move in the area.

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One Backyard Hummingbird Species Becomes Two

by Jennie Miller

These days, the discovery of a species usually requires treacherous treks into remote jungles untouched by science. But the world’s newest bird species was discovered, not in some remote tropical jungle, but in backyards in the Bahamas. A member of the Bee Hummingbird group, the Bahama Woodstar includes two subspecies which scientists now say should be recognized as two distinct species.

“Much of fieldwork was conducted sitting at the backyard tables of birders, holding the recorder in one hand and a cup of tea in the other,” explained Teresa Feo, a doctoral student at Yale University and lead author of the study, published in the January issue of The Auk.

The Bahama Woodstar species contains two subspecies, Calliphlox evelynae evelynae found throughout the northern islands of the Bahamas, and Calliphlox evelynae lyrura found only among the southern Inaguan islands of the chain. Both males and females of the two are strikingly similar, but in this case appearances were deceiving.

Physically, males in the two subspecies differ only in their forehead colors and forked tail feathers. These minor differences helped naturalists originally describe the birds as different species in the 1800’s. Yet James Peters ignored that precedent when he published the Check-list of Birds of the World in 1949 and lumped the species together as the Bahama Woodstar…

(read more: Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

photos: t - Matt MacGillivray via Birdshare; b - Anand Varma