KEY POINTS

  • Urich's Tyrannulet is said to be one of the most elusive birds in South America
  • The previous sighting of the species was in 2005
  • An expedition team in Venezuela rediscovered the species after a gap of 16 years

A team of enthusiastic scientists finally rediscovered a stunning bird with Shrek-colored plumage after about 16 years. It is said to be one of the most elusive birds in South America.

The green-colored Urich's Tyrannulet bird was first described way back in 1899, noted Re:wild, an organization that helps search for lost species, in a news release. However, the species is so elusive that there have only been three confirmed sightings of it since then, the last being in 2005.

There have been concerns that the bird could be at risk of going extinct, especially since its habitat is being cleared for agriculture purposes. Endemic to Venezuela, the Urich's Tyrannulet is classified as "endangered."

Expedition to find a "poorly-known" bird

On May 11, a five-person expedition team led by ornithologist, David Ascanio, set out to look for the elusive bird. Ascanio was among those who saw the bird in 2005; so the team initially wanted to revisit the earlier location where the species was spotted. However, the area had already been destroyed and turned into grassland.

The team used satellite images and suggestions from locals to identify two possible sites. Another location was added after Ascanio saw Instagram photos of a forest near Yucucual that was reportedly close to the area where a Urich's Tyrannulet specimen was found in 1943, according to a news release from the American Bird Conservancy (ABC).

One of the sites was degraded and the other proved difficult to search because of rain, but the team found what they were looking for around Yucucual. The team spotted a pair of the green birds after 10 hours of searching and saw another pair the next morning.

"Tiny Shrek" found

"It's like a little tiny Shrek," Ascanio said. "It's not as striking as many of the other birds in the same forest, and it has a shrill call, but if it's there it means that the forest is healthy. It's aligned with the presence of all these other wonderful forest birds and other species. I was shaking with excitement when we first saw it!"

This not only marks the first sighting of Urich's Tyrannulet in nearly 16 years but is also a remarkable opportunity for researchers to really observe and document the poorly-known bird. They were able to capture the first clear photos of the birds, record their calls and even observe their behavior. ABC even shared the first audio recording of its call.

"Urich's Tyrannulet is one of only a handful of birds in all of South America that no one has been able to find in the past 10 years, so it is hugely exciting that David and his team have rediscovered this lost species," John C. Mittermeier, ABC's director for Threatened Species Outreach, said in the news release.

"Thanks to the team's discovery, we now know for certain what this bird looks and sounds like and where it lives, and we can use this information to begin taking steps to protect it," he added.

Aerial View of a Forest Pictured: Representative image. Photo: Kiril Dobrev/Pixabay