Birdwatchers Are Being Asked to Join a Search for the World’s 10 Rarest Birds

Birdwatching provides an opportunity to enjoy wildlife, get out into nature, and offer your services as a citizen scientist. Now, you may also be able to add expert scavenger hunter to your resume.

Re:wild, the American Bird Conservancy, and BirdLife International are teaming up with bird enthusiasts across the globe for the Search for Lost Birds program. Using data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird platform, the goal is to find 10 species that have been “lost” to science for more than 10 years. This is an offshoot of Re:wild’s Search for Lost Species program, which has successfully rediscovered eight of 25 most wanted lost species since 2017.

PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK/ANDOV

Barney Long, Re:wild’s senior director of conservation strategies, says, “During the past five years, since we launched the Search for Lost Species, our list of species that could be considered lost has grown to more than 2,000. We never planned to look for all of them alone, but to encourage others to search and develop partnerships to help. Through this new partnership we’ll be able to get more targeted expeditions in the field. If we can find these lost birds, conservationists can better protect them from the threats they face.”

The organization notes that through Cornell’s eBird program, more than 700,000 users have submitted over a billion bird sightings around the world. Despite these large numbers, none of the top 10 most wanted birds has been seen. This does not mean that they’re extinct, rather that they just haven’t been spotted. This could be due to habitat destruction, invasive species, scientists not knowing where or how to look for them, or a lack of access to the birds’ habitat.

PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK/ZALINA SIRIK

So what are the top ten birds in question?

  • The dusky tetraka, last seen in Madagascar in 1999
  • The South Island kōkako, last seen in New Zealand in 2007
  • Jerdon’s courser, last seen in India in 2009
  • The Itwombe nightjar or Prigogine’s nightjar, last seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1955
  • The Cuban kite, last seen in Cuba in 2010
  • The Negros fruit-dove, last seen in the Philippines in 1953
  • The Santa Marta sabrewing, last seen in Colombia in 2010
  • The Vilcabamba brush-finch, last seen in Peru in 1968
  • The Himalayan quail, last seen in India in 1877
  • The Siau scops-owl, last seen in Indonesia in 1866

Two expeditions focused on the Siau scops-owl and dusky tetraka are planned for next year. There has also been an ongoing search for the South Island kōkako. Birdwatchers are invited to trek on their own to see if they can spot any of the top 10. Even if these species are not found, organizers hope it reminds participants of the importance of saving birds, which have been in decline globally.

PHOTO: ADOBE STOCK/ALEXANDRUPH

Roger Safford, senior program manager for preventing extinctions at BirdLife International, says, “We are optimistic that the Search for Lost Birds will lead to exciting rediscoveries, but ultimately it’s about conservation. We know that with good conservation efforts, species can be rescued from the brink of extinction, but only if we know where the last populations are. We hope these expeditions will capture people’s imaginations and catalyze conservation.”

For further information on the species involved in the search, check out Re:wild’s website.

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