Rediscovered Bird Species in Peru and the Neotropical Region

This is the second part in a three part blog series examining the phenomenon of rediscovering bird species that were once thought lost or extinct.

Rediscovered Bird Species in Peru:

White-winged Guan (Penelope albipennis)

The White-winged Guan is a classic example of rediscovered Neotropical avifauna. The species was described based on a specimen collected in the Tumbes mangroves, near the border between Peru and Ecuador by the Polish zoologist Władysław Taczanowski in 1876. It wasn’t seen again for nearly 100 years and it was thought extinct until the conservationist Gustavo del Solar rediscovered it in the dry forests of northern Peru with the help of local people. An initial assessment found that there were very few in the wild, so it was decided to start a captive breeding program. Subsequently White-winged Guan born into captivity have begun to be released into their native habitat, establishing new populations in surrounding forests.

White-winged Guan kookr

White-winged Guan ©David Cook

White-masked Antbird (Pithys castaneus)

In 1938, Berlioz described a distinctive new species of antbird in the genus Pithys, from a single specimen collected by Ramon Olalla on September 16, 1937, at ‘‘Andoas, lower Pastaza, eastern Ecuador’’. This new species, the White-masked Antbird (Pithys castaneus), has remained one of the most intriguing mysteries of Neotropical ornithology for over 60 years. It was thought extinct until its rediscovery by Thomas Valqui on July 3, 2001, in the northwestern Morona River, Loreto, Peru.

Imperial Snipe (Gallinago imperialis)

In 1869, Sclater and Salvin described a large, richly colored snipe from a single specimen obtained from the Andes in the vicinity of Bogota, Colombia, and named it Gallinago imperialis. There were no records of this species until its rediscovery by John Terborgh in the summer of 1967 in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba, Peru. Later, in 1990 it was found again by Niels Krabbe, high on the volcano Pichincha in Ecuador.

Equatorial Graytail (Xenerpestes singularis)

This bird was described in 1885 from a single specimen collected by Stolzmann at Mapoto, Provincia Ampato, in the eastern Andes of Ecuador. It was re-discovered in September 1977 in the cloud forests of the department of San Martin in northern Peru by Ted Parker. Later the Equatorial Graytail was also found in other localities in the department of Cajamarca in Peru.

Yellow-browed Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus huallagae)

The Yellow-browed Toucanet was described from a single male specimen collected "on the trail to Utcubamba, in the Huallaga Valley, east of Tayabamba" Peru, on May 3, 1932, by Carriker. The specimen was collected from "a small band" of birds, the only individuals he saw in the area. The species was not seen again for 47 years, until 1979, when members of a Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science (LSUMZ) expedition found them while following Carriker’s trail.

Rediscovered Bird Species in the Neotropical Region:

Golden-crowned Manakin (Lepidotrix vilasboasi)

The Golden-crowned Manakin was first discovered by German scientist Helmut Sick in 1957, and was officially recognized as a species in 1959. On May 14, 2002, it was rediscovered after many years in Brazil. Fábio Olmos who, together with José Fernando Pacheco, rediscovered the species said: "We were thrilled to find the lost manakin – quite distinctive from other manakins." He added: "The local economy is based on logging and cattle-ranching on cleared land. The Brazilian government is encouraging colonization but has no way of controlling loggers, squatters, colonists and gold miners once access is created. Forest destruction will remain a major threat to the long-term survival of this beautiful bird and other wildlife of the area."

Golden-crowned Manakin Fabio Olmos

Golden-crowned Manakin ©Fabio Olmos

Pale-headed Brush-Finch (Atlapetes pallidiceps)

The Pale-headed Brush-finch is a bird endemic to the Rio Jubones Valley in Azuay Province, Ecuador. It went unrecorded for 30 years despite several searches at the localities where the species had been collected in the 1960s. In November 1998, a small population of 10-20 birds was rediscovered in a side valley of the Rio Jubones drainage. Today this small population is protected in a private reserve created for this species.

Fuertes’s Parrot (Hapalopsittaca fuertesi)

On July 28, 2003, researchers of ProAves Colombia, supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the World Parrot Trust (WPT), rediscovered one of the world’s rarest parrots in the high Andes of Colombia confirming the survival of this long lost species. Colombian ornithologists Jorge Velasquez and Alonso Quevedo found a flock of 14 Fuertes’s Parrots in a remote area of the central Andes close to Los Nevados National Park. The species was originally described in 1911 by two bird collectors from the American Museum of Natural History in New York – Leo Miller and Arthur Allen.

Fuertes Parrot Pro Aves Colombia

Fuertes’s Parrot in Colombia ©ProAves Colombia

Kaempfer’s (Caatinga) Woodpecker (Celeus obrieni)

This species was first collected by E. Kaempfer on August 16, 1926, and deposited at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1973, the specimen was recognized as a subspecies of Rufous-headed Woodpecker, until a commission of the SACC’s classified it as a distinct species in 2003. On October 21, 2006, it was rediscovered by Advaldo Dias do Prado and co-workers when they mist-netted and photographed a male of this species at Goiatins, in the state of Tocantins.

Caatinga Woodpecker Guilherme R C Silva

Kaempfer’s Woodpecker ©Guilherme R C Silva

A special thanks to ProAves Colombia for the Fuertes’s Parrot photo. You can see more about their work to conserve Colombian avifauna here.