A new species of seabird has been hiding in plain sight in coastal Chile.
The small black-and-white bird had been spotted by birders for years, but was only recently recognized as a new species of storm petrel, the first new species of seabird in 55 years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
A new petrel hadn't been spotted in 89 years, Peter Harrison, an ornithologist, told the Los Angeles Times. Harrison is the author of "Seabirds: A Complete Guide to the Seabirds of the World." (Stackpole Books, 1997)
"If we had won the lottery, we could not feel better," Harrison told the Los Angeles Times. The announcement was made at a recent ceremony held by the San Diego Bird Festival/Audubon California Assembly in San Diego.
Harrison may have been the first to photograph the seabird species , back in 1983. He had seen the bird occasionally through the years, but always grouped it with a similar looking storm petrel species.
Harrison said there are thousands of these storm petrels along this stretch of the Chilean coast. Yet they haven't been noticed by all the ships coming and going from the port. Charles Darwin even missed them when he surveyed the area.
Researchers are analyzing blood and feather samples to learn about the birds' migration and breeding, and to further characterize the seabird as a new species. Storm petrels, 22 species in all, are called "the ballerinas of the sea." They seem to dance on water with their webbed-feet.
The new discovery was made in Puerto Montt, Chile.