A bird scientists haven’t seen in more than 140 years was recently viewed for the second time in history.
The black-naped pheasant-pigeon is a black and orange bird that has red eyes. Researchers first saw it in 1882, and it hasn’t been seen since, until now. According to BirdLife International, the animal is classified as critically endangered.
“After a month of searching, seeing those first photos of the pheasant-pigeon felt like finding a unicorn. It is the kind of moment you dream about your entire life as a conservationist and birdwatcher,” John C. Mittermeier, co-leader of the excursion, said.
I am super excited to share the first video of the Black-naped pheasant-pigeon, a species from Papua New Guinea lost to science for 140 years! @ABCbirds @rewild @Jordan_Boersma @johnmittermeier pic.twitter.com/QplRA36Xr0
— Jason Gregg (@JasonJGregg) November 17, 2022
A group of researchers went to Fergusson Island, near the southeastern side of Papua New Guinea. The team was operating with Search for Lost Birds, a partnership between multiple groups to rediscover “birds that have become enigmas in ornithology,” according to re:wild, which was founded by researchers and actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The team arrived at their destination in September with dreams of seeing the creature.
Last week, re:wild announced that the group had found the bird. The researchers searched the island for a month while asking locals where to place their camera traps.
Hunters from the region have said they saw the bird in certain areas, and the team set up eight cameras in those spots. They also put 12 camera traps on Mt. Kilkerran, the highest mountain on the island.
“It wasn’t until we reached villages on the western slope of Mt. Kilkerran that we started meeting hunters who had seen and heard the pheasant-pigeon,” Jason Gregg, conservation biologist and a co-leader of the team, said. “We became more confident about the local name of the bird, ‘Auwo,’ and felt like we were getting closer to the core habitat of where the black-naped pheasant-pigeon lives.”
Their efforts were not in vain, as they finally got a picture of the bird using a remote camera trap.
“When we collected the camera traps, I figured there was less than a one percent chance of getting a photo of the black-naped pheasant-pigeon,” Jordan Boersma, co-leader of the expedition group, noted. “Then as I was scrolling through the photos, I was stunned by this photo of this bird walking right past our camera.”
Doka Nason is the researcher who established the camera trap that would capture a picture of the mysterious bird.
“When we finally found the black-naped pheasant-pigeon, it was during the final hours of the expedition,” Doka Nason said. “When I saw the photos, I was incredibly excited.”