The Search For Lost Birds

Black-naped Pheasant Pigeon; Illustration: Jan Wilczur/Birds of the World


Imagine you’re a researcher sent to an island off New Guinea to find a bird no one had seen in over 140 years. You set up camera traps, spend weeks in the jungle and yet, no sign of your quarry – the Black-naped Pheasant Pigeon, or “Auwo” as they are locally known. Then, after feeling what likely was a sense of hopelessness that this bird would ever be seen again, just a couple of hours before you are about to pack it in completely, you screen a camera trap video from a couple of days before…and presto there your bird is walking directly in front of the camera!
This is what happened to a group of researchers from The Search For Lost Birds – a collaboration between Birdlife International, American Bird Conservancy and re:Wild, with data support from Cornell Lab of Ornithology and ebird. Their purpose is to mount expeditions to find birds considered lost.


In this case, this was the first time a Black-naped Pheasant Pigeon had ever been captured in a photograph or video, and had only been known recently to a few local hunters who helped the researchers track down one of what is believed to be just a handful of these birds. It’s great to find this beautiful ground-dwelling pheasant-like bird alive and well, and supporting the habitat in which he lives. But researchers discovered the property on which he (and hopefully others) live has just been sold to a logging company. So the next step is to find out how many birds there are and help the local communities ensure these birds can still maintain a foothold.