WICHITA, Kan. -- Deep within the hair-thick Filipino jungles, a small, mostly brown bird scurries with two important ties to Kansas.
The bird, a Sierra Madre ground warbler, was recently discovered by researchers from the University of Kansas.
Its scientific name, Robsonius thompsoni, is in honor of one of Kansas' top ornithological experts and educators, Max Thompson of Winfield. Thompson is a retired professor of biology at Southwestern College, but his career took him to many other places and he helped at many schools.
"Max has had this long-term commitment to KU, starting as a graduate student (in about 1960) and it's continued," said Mark Robbins of KU's Biodiversity Institute. "He's been on many expeditions with us, and has been an ambassador for us. He's made some major contributions to documenting the biodiversity of the planet. Plus, we all just really like him."
Robbins, who manages the school's ornithological collection, rated as one of the best in the world, said the University of Kansas benefited greatly when Thompson contributed his collection of about 10,000 specimens about a decade ago. Through the decades Thompson has completed biological projects and studies on most continents.
Thompson couldn't be reached for comment. Robbins said he's due back from Peru this weekend, where he was pursuing a variety of outdoors-related endeavors.
The Sierra Madre ground warbler is one of four new species of birds KU researchers have identified within the past year. Pete Hosner, a KU graduate student who has helped with the research, said the other species were found in Cambodia, Peru and Mexico.
Hosner said finding and identifying the bird named after Thompson was difficult because of the thickness of the jungle and because the bird's call is so high pitched that the source of the sounds are usually difficult to locate. The birds could also could easily be confused with other species of ground warblers in the Philippine jungles.
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