‘Spectacular’ bird — lost for decades — is rediscovered. See the ‘mind-blowing’ photo

As they trekked through some mountains in central Africa, a group of scientists stayed on high alert. They watched for flashes of movement, listened for animal calls.

And their efforts paid off.

The scientists spotted a “noisy and active” group of birds in a forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a Feb. 20 news release from the University of Texas at El Paso. The animals had black bodies and a yellow “helmet” on their heads.

Researchers had rediscovered a “lost” species: the yellow-crested helmetshrike, or Prionops alberti. A photo shows the colorful bird.

Yellow-crested helmetshrikes had not been seen in decades and were considered a “lost bird” by the American Bird Conservancy, the university said.

“It was a mind-blowing experience to come across these birds,” Michael Harvey, a bird researcher with the university, said in the release. “We knew they might be possible here, but I was not prepared for how spectacular and unique they would appear in life.”

A yellow-crested helmetshrike bird seen for the first time in decades.
A yellow-crested helmetshrike bird seen for the first time in decades.

Researchers found about 18 yellow-crested helmetshrikes at three locations in the Itombwe mountains during their six-week expedition that ended in January, the university said.

“This inspires hope that perhaps the species still has a reasonably healthy population in the remote forests of the region,” Harvey said. “But mining and logging as well as the clearing of forests for agriculture are making inroads deep into the forests of the Itombwe range.”

“Right now is a golden opportunity to protect these tropical forests, so that we don’t lose species like the helmetshrike before they are known and studied,” he said.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is in central Africa and borders nine countries: Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The Itombwe mountains are near the border with Burundi.

A YouTube video shared by David Akana shows a nature reserve in the Itombwe massif.

The joint Texas-Congolese research team included Harvey, Eli Greenbaum, Matt Brady, Chifundera Kusamba, Robert Kizungu Byamana, Chance Bahati Muhigirwa, Mwenebatu Aristote and Wandege Muninga.

The team also rediscovered a frog species that hadn’t been seen in about 70 years.

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