Off the top of your head, you can probably name dozens or even hundreds of animals. But how many of them have you actually seen in person? Luckily, animal photographers and videographers provide visuals of these creatures, though sometimes getting that coveted footage can be really hard. That's why, when two researchers managed to get images of an elusive bird, they had the most heartwarming reaction—and it was all captured on video.
In the clip, expedition co-leader Jordan Boersma hands the trail camera to his colleague, local biologist Doka Nason. After checking the footage, he can't believe his eyes, and has to sit down for a moment. After rewatching the video, he turns to Boersma with a big smile on his face. Nason then gives the co-leader a long high-five, excitedly stomps his foot, and screams, “We did it!”
“When we collected the camera traps, I figured there was less than a one-percent chance of getting a photo of the Black-naped Pheasant-Pigeon,” Boersma says. “Then as I was scrolling through the photos, I was stunned by this photo of this bird walking right past our camera.”
While any dedicated ornithologist understands their excitement, this goes beyond getting good images of a bird. Since it was first described in 1882, the creature in the footage had never been documented by scientists. Native to the Fergusson Island in Papua New Guinea, the black-naped pheasant-pigeon is a chicken-sized, ground-dwelling pigeon.
Fearful that it had disappeared entirely, the team had spent a month trying to catch a glimpse of it. “To find something that’s been gone for that long, that you’re thinking is almost extinct, and then to figure out that it’s not extinct, it feels like finding a unicorn or a Bigfoot,” John C. Mittermeier, co-leader of the eight-member expedition, told Audubon Magazine. “It’s extraordinarily unusual.”
On top of the huge scientific achievement of finding this bird and getting to study it better, the footage will also boost the conservancy efforts of its habitat, as it faces pressure from logging companies. This also highlights the importance of working with the local communities and academics, as their insights were key to spotting this elusive creature. For now, the researchers hope this will inspire more expeditions to find those birds that have yet to be documented.
“The way this was always going to work is that we just really lean into local knowledge and put our faith in our local partners,” Boersma says. “That’s what delivered this incredible moment for us.”