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Bird thought to be extinct but rediscovered after 140 years

by Rishika Choudhury

Date & Time: Nov 23, 2022 10:00 AM

Read Time: 4 minute

Scientists have rediscovered evidence of a rare bird known as the black-naped pheasant-pigeon, which was last seen nearly 140 years ago. According to the report, a research team was able to capture footage of the rare species in the forest of a tiny island in Papua New Guinea after a month of rigorous searching back in September. 

The journey was not easy, as the researchers had to constantly interview locals and set up more than 20 camera traps.

The expedition's co-leader, John Mittermeier, compared the experience to "finding a unicorn." Back in 2019, there appeared to be three attempts to locate the large, ground-dwelling pigeon, but the results did not materialise because the previous team found no trace of the rare species. This year, a team of researchers reportedly reached the villages on Mount Kilkerran's western slope, where they began meeting hunters who had seen the pheasant pigeon.

Extinct species rediscovered after 140 years

During the final hours of an expedition searching for the Black-naped Pheasant-pigeon, camera traps captured photos and video of the bird, which had been long-lost to science for 140 years.

One of the hunters provided the team with a promising lead about a location with steep ridges and valleys where he claimed to have heard the bird's distinct voice. The researchers then installed cameras in the area and were eventually successful in capturing the bird just a few days before the team was about to leave the island. Jordan Boersma, a researcher from Cornell University said, “As I was scrolling through the photos, I was stunned by this photo of this bird walking right past our camera.” Notably, the images of the pheasant-pigeon that were captured are the first to be documented of the species since 1882.

“It is the kind of moment you dream about your entire life as a conservationist and birdwatcher,” said Mittermeier while expressing his feeling about the rediscovery. 

Although little is known about the species, the researchers believe its population on the island is small and declining. However, the scientists hope that the information gathered during the expedition will be useful in protecting the rare species' remaining population. They want to find a way to save themselves from extinction.

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