Black-naped Pheasant-pigeon; long lost bird rediscovered in Papua New Guinea 140 years after its last sighting

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A bird thought to have disappeared from scientific study for 140 years has been rediscovered in Fergusson, Papua New Guinea

A joint expedition into Papua New Guinea has unearthed a sighting of a Black-naped Pheasant-pigeon, which was last documented by conservationists and ornithologists back in 1883. The research team photographed the pheasant-pigeon with a remote camera trap at the end of a month-long search of Fergusson, Papua New Guinea.

The expedition was supported by American Bird Conservancy and the Search for Lost Birds, a collaboration between BirdLife International, American Bird Conservancy and Re:wild when the pheasant-pigeon was revealed it was one of a few bird species that have been lost to science for more than a century after a global review.

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The expedition was the first-ever camera trapping study conducted on Fergusson Island. The team placed 12 camera traps on the slopes of Mt. Kilkerran, Fergusson’s highest mountain, and deployed an additional eight cameras in locations where local hunters had reported seeing the pheasant-pigeon in the past

But a breakthrough for the expedition came as local hunter, Augustin Gregory, had a lead where the elusive bird may be. Gregory reported seeing the pheasant-pigeon on multiple occasions in an area with steep ridges and valleys and described hearing the bird’s distinctive calls, which is similar to other species of pheasant-pigeons.

His lead proved to be decisive as the expedition team as a camera placed on a ridge at 3,200 feet near the Kwama River above Duda Ununa eventually captured the Black-naped Pheasant-pigeon walking on the forest floor two days before the team was scheduled to leave the island.

“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 based in Papua New Guinea. “They are now looking forward to working with us to try to protect the pheasant-pigeon.”

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The Search for Lost Birds expedition is set to try and rediscover ten breeds of birds that have been thought to have been lost to science. Alongside the Black-naped Pheasant-pigeon, explorers are also looking for others including the dusky tetraka, the South Island kōkako, Jerdon’s courser, the Itwombe nightjar, the Cuban kite and the Negros fruit-dove, last seen in 1953 in the Philippines.

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