After 24 years of not being seen, the Dusky Tetraka bird was recently rediscovered in northeastern Madagascar. The small bird has an olive and yellow throat and moves around on the ground.
A team from The Peregrine Fund’s Madagascar Program led the expedition and found the bird in two different remote locations. One was on the Masoala peninsula in December 2022, and the other was near Andapa in January of this year.
During the search for the Dusky Tetraka, the team arrived at a forest location only to discover that much of the area had been destroyed and converted into vanilla farms.
Woweeee! Pure excitement and relief best describes how Lily-Arison Rene de Roland, Loukman Kalavah and I felt after nine days of searching for the lost Dusky Tetraka in the mountains of Madagascar last month @ABCbirds @peregrinefund @rewild #searchforlostbirds pic.twitter.com/ijLUK4Mazn
— John C. Mittermeier (@johnmittermeier) March 1, 2023
“Extinct bird” last seen in 1999
The last sighting of the Dusky Tetraka bird was in 1999. As a result, it earned a spot among the top 10 lost birds on the “Search for Lost Birds” list. It is a project of Re: wild, American Bird Conservancy (BirdLife in the US), and BirdLife International. The collaboration aims to find lost bird species.
Lily-Arison Rene de Roland, Madagascar Program Director for The Peregrine Fund and expedition leader, stated that discovering Dusky Tetraka and understanding its habitat has opened doors to explore other regions of Madagascar, and so gain crucial insights into its ecology and biology. She added that Madagascar holds a vast diversity of undiscovered species.
However, it is noteworthy that the two sightings of Dusky Tetraka occurred in the undergrowth near rocky rivers. John C Mittermeier, one of the searchers, pointed out that if this species typically inhabits riverside areas, this could explain why it remained undiscovered for an extended period.
Moreover, Mittermeier stated that in tropical forest birding, the primary strategy is to detect bird calls, which is why birdwatchers typically steer clear of locations near fast-flowing rivers, where it is difficult to hear anything.
Next search between September and October
According to Lily-Arison Rene de Roland, the team’s next step will be to search for the Dusky Tetraka again between September and October.
It is the breeding season for most birds in Madagascar, and the team hopes to increase their chances of finding the species.
In addition, the team plans to visit other locations that match the habitat and elevation where they found the bird in December and January.
It will help them understand the distribution and conservation status of the Dusky Tetraka better. These efforts are essential in safeguarding the survival of this species and preserving the biodiversity of Madagascar.
Madagascar: Home to endemic bird species
According to Wild Madagascar, Madagascar is home to approximately 115 endemic bird species. Unfortunately, over 40 of these are classified as threatened with extinction and on the IUCN’s Red List.
The loss of biodiversity in Madagascar is mainly due to several factors, such as deforestation, habitat degradation, invasive species, climate change, and hunting.
Additionally, prior research indicates that human activity caused the loss of approximately 40% of the original forest cover on the island between 1950 and 2000.
(An earlier version of this article was first published in August 2023.)