Researchers find rare bird for first time in 140 years

The photos are the first documentation of the bird since 1882.

Updated: November 20, 2022 - 5:51pm

Researchers sighted a black-naped pheasant-pigeon for the first time in 140 years after searching a small island off of Papua New Guinea for a month.

A team captured footage of the bird in September deep in a forest on Fergusson Island, the BBC reported Friday.

Before capturing footage of the ground-dwelling pigeon, researchers conducted countless interviews with locals, set 20 camera traps and even had a run-in with pirates. 

Expedition co-lead John Mittermeier said it felt like "finding a unicorn."

Researchers previously attempted to find the bird in 2019 but did not have any luck. The most recent expedition appeared to be going similarly until the team came to villages on the slope of the island's highest peak.

One local told researchers he saw the bird several times and heard its distinctive calls, so they set up cameras in the area and captured images of the pheasant-pigeon. The photos are the first documentation of the bird since 1882.

"It is the kind of moment you dream about your entire life as a conservationist and birdwatcher," Mittermeier said.