‘Lost Bird’ not seen in 20 years photographed for the first time.

Rediscovering a lost species is exciting, and important for boosting conservation efforts. However, it is not for the faint of heart. An international team of scientists traversed 75 miles of steep mountain terrain to capture the first recorded photos of a bird once considered lost. The yellow-crested helmetshrike (Prionops alberti) was listed as a ‘lost bird’ by the American Bird Conservancy because it hadn’t been seen by scientists in almost 20 years. 

That did not deter a group of scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). They embarked on a six-week expedition to the Itombwe Massif mountain range in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo alongside a group of Congolese researchers from the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles. The team trekked by foot for over 75 miles to survey all of the birds, amphibians, and reptiles they found along the way.

While exploring the cloud forests on the slopes of a mountain, the team stumbled upon the helmetshrike, with its bright yellow “helmet” and black plumage. They primarily feed on insects and other small prey and forage in tight groups. The birds were observed in very noisy groups in the forest’s midstory–the area between the shortest and tallest trees, between the top canopy and shrub layer. 

The yellow-crested helmetshrike is endemic to the western slopes of the Albertine Rift of Central Africa. About 18 birds in total were found at three sites during the expedition. The photos of the helmetshrikes have been reviewed and confirmed by Cameron Rutt, who leads the American Bird Conservancy’s Lost Birds project. 

The December 2023 to January 2024 expedition also led to the rediscovery of the red-bellied squeaker frog (Arthroleptis hematogaster), which had not been documented by scientists in this region since the 1950s. The frog rediscovery was confirmed by biologist David Blackburn from the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History.

Source: www.popsci.com


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