A new list documents ‘lost’ birds

Researchers tallied 126 species not seen in a decade

Biologists have released the first comprehensive list of birds that haven’t been seen for more than a decade.

The list stemmed from the American Bird Conservancy’s Search for Lost Birds, an effort with Re:wild and BirdLife International to tally birds that have been lost to science.

Published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, the list relied on the repository of media at the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and data from citizen scientist platforms from iNaturalist and xeno-canto.

Currently the list stands at 126 species, most of which are threatened with extinction.

“We looked for species not represented at all with a recent image, video or sound recording,” said lead author Cameron Rutt, a bird biologist with the American Bird Conservancy at the time of the research. “A species would be considered ‘lost’ to science if there was no media of the bird within the past 10 years or more.”

Researchers collated 42 million photos, videos and audio records. Out of all the records, 144 species—1.2% of all known bird species—qualified as lost.

Since this study was initiated, other lost birds have been rediscovered, including the black-naped pheasant-pigeon, which hadn’t been documented on a remote island of Papua New Guinea in more than 100 years.

Most of the undocumented species are concentrated in Asia, Africa and Oceania. Only three species made the lost list in the continental United States: the Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis), Bachman’s warbler (Vermivora bachmanii) and the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis). Six native species are on the list from Hawaii.

Read more from the Cornell Chronicle.

Header Image: This hand-colored engraving by John James Audubon depicts a pair of Eskimo curlews. The species is among those not documented in the past decade. Credit: Public domain