Godlewski’s bunting (Emberiza godlewskii) is the latest addition to Bhutan’s avian biodiversity.

With the sighting of the Godlewski’s bunting, Bhutan now has 719 birds. The Godlewski’s bunting is the second new bird species to be recorded this year after the Yellow-eyed babbler (Chrysomma sinense) was sighted and recorded in the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) in February.

“Off to Bhutan,” a birding and birdwatching company’s guide, Norbu, with a group of tourists comprising of biologists from Victoria, Canada discovered the Godlewski’s Bunting recently. The group recorded the bird near Tharpaling monastery.

Norbu had led his guests to Tharpaling monastery to observe the Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus) where it can be easily spotted.

One of the biologists, Claudia Copley, emailed that when the bird was first spotted, its identity was unclear since most of the watchers, save for Norbu, did not possess much knowledge about birds. However, Norbu took several photographs of the bird.

“Upon examination later on the bus and after much discussion, it was concluded that the bird was a new record for Bhutan,” Claudia Copley said.

They then checked its identity with Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment ornithologist, Sherub. “We crossed checked with Sherub who told us that the bird wasn’t recorded before and is a new find,” Norbu said.

Sherub said it is the westernmost sighting at least in Bhutan. “So far it was found only in Arunachal Pradesh in India and China,” Sherub said.

As per the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Godlewski’s bunting is found in China, India, Mongolia, Myanmar and Russia. The bird is recorded in Bhutan for the first time.

Claudia Copley said that while the new bird is no match for the exquisite Himalayan monal, they were happy with the discovery. “But Norbu’s enthusiasm for the discovery of the new bird was something we’re glad to be a part of,” Claudia Copley said.

Bhutan made a record discovery of new birds in 2015 recording eight new bird species: Jacobin Cuckoo (clamator jacobinus), Stork-billed Kingfisher (pelargopsis capensis), Greater Sand Plover (charadrius leschenaultii) and Little Owl (athene noctua).

That year, the Beautiful Sibia (heterophasia pulchella) and Brown Accentor (prunella fulvescens) were also discovered after the country recorded the Common Moorhen (gallinula chloropus) and Burmese Shrike (lanius Collurioides) in January and April respectively. In two years, Bhutan recorded 10 new bird species.

Tempa Wangdi