BirdLife International, a registered charity, is looking for a sponsor for a newly discovered bird, a small yellow variety of vireo (a distant relation of the warbler) with a fruity chirp. It plans to incorporate the sponsor's name into the official Latin tag for the species. Thus twitchers may soon be scanning the tree tops of the Choco region in the foothills of the Andes in search of the Vireo coca- cola or the Vireo british telecom or even the Vireo lloyds bank.
According to Martin Kelsey, conservation officer of the Cambridge-based BirdLife, 'This is a unique type of sponsorship. It's never happened before. Only two or three new bird species are discovered each year.' Normally new species are named after their discoverer or the region where they are found. However, the ornithologist who discovered the new vireo in 1991 - Paul Salaman of Anglia Polytechnic University - waived the honour.
BirdLife plans to hold an auction on 15 June. It hopes the highest bid will top dollars 100,000, the proceeds going to set up an endowment fund to protect the two forests the vireo is known to inhabit. 'There are a good number of people in the world of commerce who are keen bird watchers,' according to Mr Kelsey. BirdLife is sending a glossy brochure to 250 of its largest donors - those who have contributed more than pounds 5,000 in the past. The successful bidder will also receive a painting of the bird by David Quinn, a wildlife artist.
Many British companies already support BirdLife, including BP, Bovis, ICI, John Lewis, Shell and J Barbour, the waterproofs business.