Scientists have rediscovered the black-naped pheasant pigeon, a rare bird that was last sighted almost 140 years ago in Papua New Guinea.
The discovery was made in Fergusson Island, off the east coast of Papua New Guinea in September.
Researchers’ cameras caught sight of the rare bird, a species that hasn’t been documented by scientists since it was first described in 1882, reported Audubon Magazine.
John C Mittermeier, director of the lost birds programme at the American Bird Conservancy and a co-leader of the eight-member expedition, said: “To find something that’s been gone for that long, that you’re thinking is almost extinct, and then to figure out that it’s not extinct, it feels like finding a unicorn or a Bigfoot.”
“It’s extraordinarily unusual.”
The research team is a part of The Search for Lost Birds, a collaboration between BirdLife International, Rewild, and American Bird Conservancy, which financed the trip.
The collaboration aims to rediscover more than 150 bird species that haven’t been declared extinct but also have not been seen for at least a decade.
The black-naped pheasant pigeon is the size of a chicken and among around 20 “lost” birds that have not been sighted for over a century.
It is one of the four pheasant-pigeon species found around New Guinea, and lives only on Fergusson Island.
The researchers had tried to locate the large, ground-dwelling pigeon in 2019 at the island but failed.
While the last expedition was unsuccessful, this year the team found success in the villages on the western slope of Mount Kilkerran - the island’s highest peak, reported BBC.
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. #LostBirds https://t.co/701DV3Dokn pic.twitter.com/Qs715l6Cys
— Re:wild (@rewild) November 17, 2022
“[There] we started meeting hunters who had seen and heard the pheasant-pigeon,” conservation biologist and expedition co-lead Jason Gregg was quoted as saying.
The researchers were aided by locals who said that the bird was spotted in an area with steep ridges and valleys.
The team then set up cameras and ultimately captured the bird on camera just days before the end of their expedition.
“This is a huge discovery,” Bulisa Iova, an expedition member and acting chief curator of the National Museum and Art Gallery in Papua New Guinea was quoted as saying to the magazine.
“I have studied birds for many years, and to be part of this team to discover this lost species is a highlight for me.”