The first photo of a Black-browed Babbler provided evidence for the need to protect surrounding habitat (photo by Saktyari).
After missing for 172 years, in September a super-rare Black-browed Babbler was observed and videotaped for the first time in the wild by an expedition funded by Oriental Bird Club (OBC) and American Bird Conservancy (ABC). A team of ornithologists observed, photographed, and obtained the first video footage of this species in its habitat in northern Borneo, Indonesia. While the researchers collected some clues about the species’ ecology, much of the Black-browed Babbler’s life history remains a mystery.
In September 2021, a team of ornithologists from Birdpacker Indonesia collaborated with South Kalimantan’s Natural Resource Conservation Agency, becoming the first group to explore Black-browed Babbler habitat in a tropical forest punctuated by rugged limestone hills. Miraculously, on the first day of fieldwork the team managed to find 2 Black-browed Babblers and document their behavior for the first time in the wild!
“It was a breathtaking moment to finally see this species in the wild, as most of its natural history is entirely unknown – so that every single movement we observed could be new to science,” said Panji Gusti Akbar, the lead scientist from Birdpacker Indonesia, who co-authored the publication that reported the rediscovery of the Black-browed Babbler.
According to Akbar, just a few hours after the search began 2 Black-browed Babblers were located in thick undergrowth on the side of a limestone cliff. The babblers were very secretive and moved quietly, making it extremely difficult to observe them. However, a Black-browed Babbler perched close enough for the team to take the first photographs and video evidence of the species in the wild.
The importance of this discovery was noted by Paul Insua Cao, Chairman of the OBC Conservation Committee, who explained that this species’ extinction would have been inevitable due to widespread and ongoing habitat destruction. He added that this information brings hope for other poorly known species that obviously need some level of protection. How exciting it is to know there are still new bird species being found in our modern world, with modern-day adventurers finding new insights about birds that have rarely ever been seen!