Watch: Rare bird recorded after 140 year-absence to science

The black-naped pheasant-pigeon hasn’t had a sighting confirmed by scientists since 1882.
Credit: Doka Nason/American Bird Conservancy

Researchers on an expedition traveling through an island in Papua New Guinea have captured what may be the first ever known video footage of a black-naped pheasant-pigeon. While local hunters have seen the species before then, researchers hadn’t documented the species since it was first described to science in 1882—140 years ago. Ornithologists don’t know much about black-naped pheasant-pigeons (Otidiphaps insularis), but they did know they are only found on Fergusson Island off the eastern coast of New Guinea in the D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago. “After a month of searching, seeing those first photos of the pheasant-pigeon felt like finding a unicorn,” said John Mittermeier, director of the Lost Birds program at the American Bird Conservancy and co-leader of the expedition, in a press release. “It is the kind of moment you dream about your entire life as a conservationist and birdwatcher.” The team spent a month traveling through the rugged island starting in September 2022 searching for the bird and interviewing locals. Augustin Gregory, a local hunter from the Duda Ununa village, provided critical information about seeing the bird in a specific area that led to the trail camera footage. Researchers believe the population of the birds is small and declining.

Read more at the American Bird Conservancy.