See it: Scientists photograph ‘lost bird,’ not seen for decades, during expedition in Africa

University of Texas at El Paso researchers found a bird in the Congo that hasn't been seen in the wild for 20 years and photograph it for the first time in history.

KINSHASA, Congo - The yellow-crested helmetshrike is a species of bird categorized as a "lost bird" by the American Bird Conservancy, having not been spotted in the wild in nearly two decades until now. 

During a six-week expedition that ran from December 2023 to January 2024, deep in the mountains of the Republic of the Congo, researchers from the University of Texas at El Paso (UEP) found the bird and was able to capture the first recorded photos of the bird. 

"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, UTEP ornithologist who photographed the bird, said. 

According to a press release from UTEP, the team stumbled across the bird on the slopes of a mountain. They found a flock of 18 helmetshrikes. 


Harvey said the discovery brought solace to the team who feared for the species’ health. 

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

The UTEP team journeyed over 75 miles on foot through the Itombwe Massif, a range of mountains located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Central Africa. 

It’s known for its rugged terrain, with peaks reaching over 9,800 feet. It is also home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, some found nowhere else on Earth