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Nearly Extinct Madagascar Bird Spotted For the First Time in 24 Years

Madagascar Landscape

The dusky tetraka is a an extremely rare warbler, found only in Madagascar, who has gone undetected since 1999. Olive green in color with a yellow patch of feathers on its throat, the dusky teraka resembles similar Old World warblers.

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Estimates suggest that as many as 182 species of birds have gone extinct since 1500, although some of these extinctions are disputed and many birds that have not been seen for several years are not considered strictly “extinct.” While many of these long lost birds are likely gone from this world, like, perhaps, the oft-disputed ivory-billed woodpecker, it is not unheard of for birds that have been missing for years, or even decades, to reappear. The black-naped pheasant pigeon is a fine example of this. The news came as a significant surprise when, earlier this year, it was reported that the black-naped pheasant pigeon had been spotted, and even recorded, on an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Such discoveries are rare and poignant reminders of both the resilience of nature and the incredibly delicate state of the earth’s ecosystems.

In the case of the dusky tetraka, a conservationist group set out to search for this bird, which was widely thought to be extinct, in the very same forests of Madagascar where it was last seen in 1999. Researchers from the Peregrine Fund arrived in Madagascar in December of 2022 and were disheartened to discover that much of the forest habitat that they had come to investigate had been deforested and replaced with vanilla farms, in spite of protections in place to preserve these delicate hubs of biodiversity.

The destruction of much of the forest where the dusky tetraka was last reported was a major blow to the remaining hopes for the species. This is why it came as such an incredible shock to researchers when three individual dusky tetrakas were spotted alongside a rocky river. Dusky tetrakas are ground-dwelling birds, and their proximity to the river was unexpected. These birds are so rare and they have not been seen in so long that knowledge about them and their habits is severely limited. It has been suggested that, perhaps, dusky tetrakas display a previously-unknown preference for rivers and that they have been overlooked because researchers have not been looking for them in the appropriate habitats.

In any case, the discovery of several individual dusky tetrakas is news worth celebrating. As habitats shrink and increasing pressure is placed upon the most delicate ecosystems on earth, there is almost nothing as exciting as seeing a threatened animal adapt and persevere. The exact numbers of dusky tetrakas cannot be known at this time, and they no doubt remain under dire threat of extinction, but they are not gone, and that is something to celebrate.

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