Bird species re-discovered after almost 200 years of absence

Good News Notes:

The bird in question is the black-browed babbler, and we’ve only ever had sparse information on it. The western world was first treated to specimens and a description of this bird around 1848. Attempts to find the birds since have all failed, leaving us with very little data about the species’ traits including ecology, population, and behavior.

Needless to say, we assumed it went extinct. But we were wrong!


‘It was a bit like a “Eureka!” moment,’ said Gusti Akbar, of the Indonesian bird conservation group Birdpacker and lead author of the paper describing the finding.

‘This bird is often called “the biggest enigma in Indonesian ornithology.” It’s mind-blowing to think that it’s not extinct and it’s still living in these lowland forests, but it’s also a little scary because we don’t know if the birds are safe or how much longer they may survive.’

Muhammad Suranto and Muhammad Rizky Fauzan rediscovered the birds in October 2020 during a weekly trip to forage in the forests of the Southern Kalimantan Province, Borneo. As luck would have it, they accidentally captured a bird that neither recognized, took a few pictures of it, and let it fly loose. When they got home, they sent the pictures to the local birdwatching group BW Galeatus hoping someone there could identify it.

The group suspected it may have been a member of the long-lost species and contacted the ornithologists that penned the report. They compared the photos to a field guide description and photos of the only known black-browed babbler specimen at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.

Even from these few pictures, we’ve already learned something new about the black-browed babbler. For example, we now have a better understanding of its plumage, as several areas on birds‘ feathers lose tint during the taxidermy process meant to preserve them.”

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