At least two dozen bird species are classified as 'lost' throughout the Western Hemisphere. Unseen for decades or more, the existence of these mysterious birds—known only from outdated photos, drawings or museum specimens—remains a source of lingering question and doubt.

To help answer these questions, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is mounting a series of field expeditions with conservation allies in South America. We started in 2016 by looking for three species that are considered likely candidates for rediscovery. Our goal is to find lost birds and protect them and their habitat, before they are gone forever.

Lost Birds of the Americas

Tachira Antpitta is highly endangered bird species
Táchira Antpitta: An international team of researchers solved one of South America's great bird mysteries by rediscovering the Táchira Antpitta, a species not seen in 60 years. With ABC's support, they found the Critically Endangered bird deep within Venezuela's cloud forest. For more information, read our press release or contact Dan Lebbin.(Image: Birdlife International)
Tuqoise-throated Puffleg, bird species yet to be rediscovered
Turquoise-throated Puffleg: This extraordinary hummingbird is primarily known from specimens collected in 1850 and an unconfirmed sighting in 1976. Searches for the species are being coordinated with Ecuadorian ornithologist Juan Freile Ortiz and his team. For more information, contact Wendy Willis. (Image: J. Gould)
Kinglet Calyptura, one of South America's lost birds
Kinglet Calyptura: Brazil's Kinglet Calyptura was common in southeastern Brazil during the 1800s, but it went largely unobserved for 119 years until an historic 1996 sighting. Since then, a smattering of other unconfirmed sightings have been reported. The search for the Kinglet Calyptura began in late 2016; it has been unsuccessful so far, but another search is planned for the future. For more information, contact Bennett Hennessey.(Image: William Swainson)

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Why Search for Lost Birds?

Pale-headed Brush-finch is being protected by ABC and partners

It's hard to protect birds if you don't know where they live. Our expeditions provide conservationists with the critical information necessary to effectively protect endangered bird species. Finding these birds can mean the difference between saving them and losing them forever.

As the finding of the Pale-headed Brush-Finch and other ABC-funded expeditions have proven, discovery is often the first step toward permanent protection. (Photo: Dusan-Brinkhuizen)

Unsolved Mysteries

Where do Sinaloa Martins spend the winter? Where do Ringed Storm-Petrels nest? These are just some of many mysteries that—if solved—could improve protection for threatened bird species. ABC is working with its partners to answer these kinds of questions. Our current projects include:

Blue-throated Macaws are only found in Bolivia

Blue-throated Macaws: American Bird Conservancy has been collaborating with Asociación Armonía and other researchers to locate unknown breeding sites for Blue-throated Macaws that use Barba Azul Reserve in Bolivia. A major discovery was made in 2017; see our press release to learn more. For more information, contact Bennett Hennessey. (Photo: Daniel Alarcon/Amonia)

Markham's Storm Petrel survives in Chile

Markham's Storm-Petrel: In Chile, ABC is collaborating with Red de Observadores de Aves y Vida Silvestre de Chile (ROC), which discovered the breeding sites of the Markham's Storm-Petrel's in 2015. ROC returned to the deserts of northern Chile in 2016 to find new nesting areas and determine threats. Researchers also discovered nests of the Ringed Storm-Petrel in the Atacama Desert of Chile. For more information, contact Hannah Nevins. (Photo: Jaime-Jahncke)

Black-capped Petrels are an endangered species found in the Caribbean

Black-capped Petrel: On the Caribbean island of Dominica, ABC is working with partners to confirm and locate nests of Black-capped Petrels. Radar evidence suggests the birds are breeding on Dominica. Identifying the nesting locations will help us and our partners protect these endangered birds. For more information, contact Hannah Nevins. (Photo: Brian Patteson)

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Help ABC Find Lost Birds

Threatened birds need to be studiedABC seeks to inspire researchers and conservationists to resolve unanswered questions about birds in the Americas. We are partnering with other organizations on projects to directly search for a few lost species and identify unknown nesting areas for priority species, but we can't solve all of these questions on our own.

If you or your organization is working on resolving these mysteries, please let us know and we can link to your efforts. (Photo: Dan Lebbin)


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News and Updates

• Following rediscovery of Táchira Antpitta in 2017, Cornell Lab of Ornithology publishes "Search to Rediscover Species."

Global Wildlife Conservation launches Lost Species Campaign.

• Desert Discovery Sheds Light On Mysterious Storm-Petrel's Life Cycle – December, 16, 2016 – ABC blog

• ABC launches lost bird searches – ABC blog

• Once lost, Blue-eyed Ground Dove rediscovered in Brazil

Semper's Warbler search effort underway (but not found) on St. Lucia.

• Extinct in wild, Spix's Macaw spotted in Brazil. The single bird has not been re-sighted and there is debate whether this was an escaped pet or a truly wild bird.

• Recent genetic evidence shows that the lost Hooded Seedeater is not a valid species.