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Last seen by birdwatchers, asked to join hunt for the world’s 10 rarest birds | Environment
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Last seen by birdwatchers, asked to join hunt for the world’s 10 rarest birds | Environment

An illustration of a small brown owl with tufts of feathers that look like horns

Birdwatchers all over the globe are being asked to help in the search for rare birds.

The global Search for Lost BirdsToday’s launch of, provides researchers, conservationists, and the global birdwatching community a Top 10 Most Wanted List of birds that have been lost or are in danger. This includes the Siau scops Owl, last seen in 1866.

An illustration of a small brown owl with tufts of feathers that look like horns
The Siau scops Owl, which was found only on one island in Indonesia, was not known to exist. Although it has not been recorded for almost two centuries, there are rumours that an owl was seen on Siau. Illustration: Lynx Edicions/Re:wild

Roger Safford, BirdLife International, stated that the Siau scops owl can be found on the small island Siau in Indonesia. In 1866, a stuffed specimen of the bird was brought back to Europe. Since then, Siau’s forest has been largely cleared.

There have been rumours that an owl was seen on Siau. Imagine a species that hasn’t been seen in over 150 years.

The Most Wanted, a joint effort of Re:wild, American Bird Conservancy BirdLife InternationalAlso included are the South Island kkako in New Zealand and Perus Vilcabamba Brush-finch in Perus India. The 10 birds are an extension to Re:wilds Search for Lost SpeciesThis program was launched in 2017.

For at least a decade, no one has seen any of the 10 birds wild. Their disappearance can be attributed to climate change, habitat loss, logging and mining, as well as hunting and invasive species. None of these species are on the IUCN red-list of endangered species.

It is hoped that the search could lead to greater conservation efforts. Barney Long, Re:wild, stated that birds are in decline around the world, but that some species may have disappeared to science. If we know the location of these species, we can take conservation measures to save and recover them.

Birdwatchers are encouraged to report sightings of any of the 10 species listed on the website. eBirdPlatform of Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

John C Mittermeier, American Bird Conservancy, stated that these Top 10 Lost Birds are only extreme examples of the gaps in our collective knowledge about birds. There are many mysteries to be solved and discoveries to make that will be incredibly helpful for conservation and science.

Illustration of a South Island kkako, a black crow-like bird with blue and orange wattles
The South Island’s kkako. Its recovery on New Zealand’s North Island by its close relatives has raised hopes that it will be found for the first-time in 14 years. Illustration: Lynx Edicions/Re:wild

Perhaps there are no recent sightings in a local park; a species not yet confirmed as breeding in your area; or a place where no one has done a Christmas count. Sometimes all it takes is a phone cam to confirm the rediscovery a lost species, as was the case last year with the black-browed banbler.

Two expeditions will be conducted next year to find the Siau scops Owl in Indonesia and the dusky tetraka of Madagascar.

Safford stated that the world’s birds were not in good health. There are approximately 11,000 species on Earth, and almost half are in decline. One in eight species are at risk of extinction.

He said that the threats include agriculture and logging, hunting, trapping, invasive aliens species, residential and comercial development, fire, and the long-term climate crisis threat.

Safford added that birds don’t attract the same attention as large mammals such as elephants, lions and tigers. Birds play an important role in conserving ecosystems that humans and all life on the planet depend upon. Birds are able to control pests and spread seeds. Birds pollinate around 5% of the plants humans use for medicine or food.

Illustration of Jerdons courser, a beige bird with long legs, brown breast-bands, white throat and a blackish crown
Jerdons courser was a nocturnal bird and was thought extinct until it was rediscovered in Andhra Pradesh around Lankamalai, in 1986. Illustration: Lynx Edicions/Re:wild

The potential for nature to benefit from the search for lost birds can also be a positive thing. Safford stated that it does not matter if Siau scops Owl or other lost birds like the Negros fruitdove survive.

Every extinction is significant. We should do everything in our power to recover them. If we are successful, we should use the knowledge we have to preserve them and help other species that live in the same extraordinary places.

The Top 10 Most Wanted Lost Birds

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