Scientists exuberant after spotting rare pheasant they thought was long extinct

Through the news of destruction and extinction, hope emerges.

In the jungles of Papua New Guinea, a team of scientists and local hunters collected their camera traps to review the footage.

They saw something no one expected to find.

A bird, but not just any bird.

Jason Gregg, a conservation biologist, huddled together with a local hunter as they reviewed the footage.

There, in a glimpse of golds, blues, and blacks, they celebrated with “we did it!”

It was hard to grasp at first what the team was excited about.

But what they have achieved in the jungles of Fergusson Island is nothing short of extraordinary.

The team just rediscovered a bird they thought was extinct.

It’s been “extinct” for 140 years.

Or, so they thought.

An expedition team consisted of local staff members from the Papua New Guinea National Museum, international scientists from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and members of the American Bird Conservancy.

To track the elusive bird, the team had to spend a month on the rugged island of Fergusson, located at the D’Entrecasteaux Archipelago off eastern Papua New Guinea.

This island was where the black-naped pheasant pigeon was first and last seen.

Its last sighting was in 1882.

The expedition team asked the local communities about the bird.

They had conflicting reports.

The villagers were saying they haven’t seen the bird in decades.

However, local hunters said that they caught glimpses of the species.

The team learned that the local name of the bird is “auwo.”

Local hunters told them that they sighted the bird on the western slope of Mt. Kilkerran.

They followed the lead and set up a total of 12 camera traps in the area.

Another 8 were placed in locations where natives saw the bird.

But the final piece of the puzzle was given by a hunter named Austin Gregory.

Gregory is based in the mountain village of Duda Ununa.

He said that he saw the black-naped pheasant pigeon in an area with “steep ridges and valleys.”

So, off the team went.

Betting on his account, a final camera was placed on a 3,200-foot high ridge near Duda Ununa.

With all their bets in place, the expedition just had to sit tight and wait.

Finally, just two days before the expedition was set to leave the island, a camera trap recorded the much-awaited guest.

Scientists compared it to finding a “unicorn”.

“After a month of searching, seeing those first photos of the pheasant-pigeon felt like finding a unicorn,” John C. Mittermeier, co-leader of the expedition, said in the news release.

The local communities were as excited as the expedition team because they thought they’ll never see the bird ever again.

The team said that the communities are looking forward to working with them in their conservation efforts.

Their current population is still unknown.

Not much is known about the bird and the latest surveys in 2019 failed to prove their existence.

This same survey, however, already noted that hunters encountered the pheasant pigeon.

This led to the current 2022 expedition. And with their video clips, the scientist can’t help but feel hopeful.


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


The event is important not just for the species but for other birds as well.

It gives us that curiosity of how many more species we thought are extinct are actually just waiting to be rediscovered.

Catch a glimpse of the black-naped pheasant for the first time in 140 years in the video below!

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