Stunning ‘Lost’ Bird Species is Photographed For First Time Ever

First ever photograph of a yellow-crested helmetstrike
The first photograph ever taken of a yellow-crested helmetshrike

Scientists have captured the first-ever photograph of a tropical bird species long thought to be lost.

For nearly two decades, the yellow-crested helmetshrike, or Prionops alberti had not been seen — leaving the American Bird Conservancy to list the species as a “lost bird.”

There were even fears that the yellow-crested helmetshrike had gone extinct.

However, this all changed when scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso embarked on a six-week expedition to the Itombwe Massif, a mountain range in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The scientists discovered the yellow-crested helmetshrike and even managed to take the first-ever photograph of the bird species.

In the image taken by scientists, the dramatic-looking yellow-topped bird appears to boldly pose for the camera.

‘This Inspires Hope’

In an expedition, that ran from December 2023 to January 2024, the scientists trekked by foot for over 75 miles through the depths of the Itombwe Massif — studying birds, amphibians, and reptiles along the way.

While exploring the cloud forests on the slopes of a mountain, scientists saw the helmetshrike — spotting the striking black bird with its unmistakable bright yellow “helmet.”

According to a statement, the scientists found not one, but 18 of these birds across different areas of the mountain range. The birds appeared as “noisy and active groups” in the forest.

The photos of the helmetshrike have since been reviewed and confirmed by Cameron Rutt who leads the Lost Birds project at the American Bird Conservancy.

“It was a mind-blowing experience to come across these birds. We knew they might be possible here, but I was not prepared for how spectacular and unique they would appear in life,” Michael Harvey, Ph.D, an ornithologist and UTEP assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences says in a statement.

The discovery of the yellow-crested helmetshrike is remarkable considering nearly 70% of the planet’s wildlife populations have declined since the 1970s.

“This inspires hope that perhaps the species still has a reasonably healthy population in the remote forests of the region,” Harvey says.

“But mining and logging, as well as the clearing of forests for agriculture, are making inroads deep into the forests of the Itombwe range.

“We are in discussions with other researchers and conservation organizations to further efforts to protect the region’s forests and the Helmetshrike.”

Image credits: Header photo by Matt Brady / The University of Texas at El Paso

Update 2/22: On publication, the bird species was incorrectly named as a “yellow-crested helmetstrike.” This has since been updated.