Ornithologists Capture First-Ever Photos, Video of Long-Lost Ground-Dwelling Pigeon

by johnsmith

The black-naped pheasant-pigeon (Otidiphaps insularis), a large terrestrial pigeon species from an island off Papua New Guinea, had been lost to science since 1883.

The black-naped pheasant-pigeon (Otidiphaps insularis). Image credit: Doka Nason / American Bird Conservancy.

First described 1883, the black-naped pheasant-pigeon lives on Fergusson Island, a rugged island in the D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago off eastern Papua New Guinea.

Like other pheasant-pigeons, the bird has a broad and laterally compressed tail, which along with its size, makes it closely resemble a pheasant.

“After a month of searching, seeing those first photos of the pheasant-pigeon felt like finding a unicorn,” said Dr. John Mittermeier, director of the lost birds program at American Bird Conservancy and co-leader of the expedition to Fergusson Island, which was funded by a grant from Cosmo Le Breton to American Bird Conservancy and the Search for Lost Birds.

“It is the kind of moment you dream about your entire life as a conservationist and birdwatcher.”

Dr. Mittermeier and his colleagues photographed the black-naped pheasant-pigeon with a remote camera trap just two days before they were scheduled to leave the island.

“When we collected the camera traps, I figured there was less than a one percent chance of getting a photo of the black-naped pheasant-pigeon,” said Dr. Jordan Boersma, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell Lab of Ornithology and co-leader of the expedition team.

“Then as I was scrolling through the photos, I was stunned by this photo of this bird walking right past our camera.”

“When we finally found the black-naped pheasant-pigeon, it was during the final hours of the expedition,” said Doka Nason, a team member who set up the camera trap that eventually photographed the bird.

“When I saw the photos, I was incredibly excited.”

The team’s findings suggest that the black-naped pheasant-pigeon is likely to be extremely rare.

“The communities were very excited when they saw the survey results, because many people hadn’t seen or heard of the bird until we began our project and got the camera trap photos,” said Serena Ketaloya, a conservationist from Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea.

“They are now looking forward to working with us to try to protect the pheasant-pigeon.”

“This rediscovery is an incredible beacon of hope for other birds that have been lost for a half century or more,” said Christina Biggs, a manager for the Search for Lost Species at Re:wild.

“The terrain the team searched was incredibly difficult, but their determination never wavered, even though so few people could remember seeing the pheasant-pigeon in recent decades.”

“As well as giving hope for searches for other lost species, the detailed information collected by the team has provided a basis for conservation of this extremely rare bird, which must indeed be highly threatened, together with the other unique species of Fergusson Island,” said Dr. Roger Safford, senior program manager for preventing extinctions at BirdLife International.

Source link: https://www.sci.news/biology/otidiphaps-insularis-11411.html

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