It had been almost 20 years since anyone had seen the Yellow-crested Helmet Shrike.  In fact, this species had been absent so long it ended up on ornithologists list of “lost birds”.  And, it’s not like they don’t stand out. This bird is named for its bright yellow head feathers. This is what one looks like:

carter.diggs University of Texas at El Paso
University of Texas at El Paso

The team of UTEP scientist were able to capture the first photo of the Helmetshrike during a six week expedition to the Democratic Republic of Congo. So, don’t bother looking for one around El Paso.  In bird circles, this is a very big deal. I love how excited the UTEP science guys are. Here’s what ornithologist and Ph.D. Michael Harvey told our news partners at ABC-7.

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“It was a mind-blowing experience to come across these birds. We knew they might possibly be here, but I was not prepared for how spectacular they would appear in life”.

Brian Wancho Photography
Brian Wancho Photography

I don’t know how to put this in layman’s terms, but Dr. Harvey sounds like a Pokémon Go player who just found an Arctibax in the parking lot of Savers.

In total, about 18 of the birds were found during the expedition. The photo has been verified by The Lost Birds project of the American Bird Conservancy.

Some of the reasons the Helmetshrike may not have been seen in such a long time is that they are non-migratory and live in a very remote part of the Congo. Also, years of armed conflict have probably kept scientist and amateur “birders” away from the area.

So, a big “HURRAH” for the UTEP team. Now, if you can only get a picture of a snipe, dodo or whatever Kevin from “Up” is.

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