As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Meet the Lazarus Birds: 5 species once presumed extinct

3 Sep 2019

The dramatic rediscovery of the Antioquia Brush-finch – a species unseen for almost half a century – hit the headlines this past April. However, such incredible returns, although rare, are not unheard of. We explore some of the most miraculous examples of recent times, and what they teach us about the danger of presuming a species is extinct.
By Margaret Sessa-Hawkins

Talk about the mundanity of miracles: in January of last year, while on his way to Sunday Mass, a flash of rust-coloured crown caught the eye of the Colombian researcher Rodolfo Correa Peña. Here, skulking in a few patches of shrubland in this small town on the outskirts of Medellin – a city of over 2.5 million people, remember – was a species no-one had seen since 1971.

The story of the Antioquia Brush-finch Atlapetes blancae is fascinating, but by no means unique in ornithological circles. Indeed, 47 years is a blink of an eye when compared to the likes of the Cerulean Paradise-flycatcher Eutrichomyias rowleyi of Sangihe, Indonesia, which was rediscovered in the island’s forested valleys in December 1978; an incredible 100 years after the only other known specimen was collected in 1878.

These stunning returns often raise more questions than answers. How did they go unnoticed for so long, and how did we know where to look? And now that we’ve found them, what are their chances of long-term survival? And, most tantalisingly, what other possibly extinct species could still be out there? These miracle ‘back from the dead’ stories are the reason why BirdLife, as the authority of birds for the IUCN Red List, is loath to declare a species extinct until we’re sure researchers have combed through every last patch of viable habitat.

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