Scientists have rediscovered the Black-naped Pheasant-Pigeon, a rare bird that was last seen almost 140 years ago. The discovery was made on Fergusson Island, off the east coast of Papua New Guinea.
The science and other stuff to know
With black and orange feathers and red eyes, the Black-naped Pheasant-Pigeon remained a mystery for nearly a century and a half since it was seen for the first time in 1882. Thankfully, a team of researchers with the Papua New Guinea National Museum, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and American Bird Conservancy has spotted it for the second time.
The bird was found during a month-long expedition for its search.
“After a month of searching, seeing those first photos of the pheasant-pigeon felt like finding a unicorn,” John C. Mittermeier, director of the Lost Birds program at the American Bird Conservancy and co-leader of the expedition, said in a statement. “It is the kind of moment you dream about your entire life as a conservationist and birdwatcher.”
Very little is known about the Black-naped Pheasant-Pigeon. The bird is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and its population is undetermined.
According to the global conservation program EDGE of Existence, this pigeon species has declined due to logging and loss of forest habitat. As of July 2021, researchers estimate there are only 50 to 249 birds left.
Conservationists and researchers hope rediscovering and confirming the existence of this rare Black-naped Pheasant-Pigeon will offer hope for other lost bird species.
“This rediscovery is an incredible beacon of hope for other birds that have been lost for a half-century or more,” Christina Biggs, Manager for the Search for Lost Species at Re:wild, stated.
“As well as giving hope for searches for other lost species, the detailed information collected by the team has provided a basis for conservation of this extremely rare bird, which must indeed be highly threatened, together with the other unique species of Fergusson Island,” Roger Safford, Senior Program Manager for Preventing Extinctions at BirdLife International, added in a press statement.
Following a successful expedition, researchers are looking to return to the forest to determine the bird population. In similar conservation programs, an initiative in England has welcomed the first wild bison calf in the U.K. in 6, 000 years.