For the last few months a Rainforest Trust supported group of researchers, SAVE Brazil and Butantan Bird Observatory, have been working in secret to scientifically report the rediscovery of the Blue-eyed Ground-dove and to simultaneously develop a conservation plan that secures the critically endangered bird’s long-term survival.
Last documented in 1941, the Blue-eyed Ground-dove was believed extinct. With cobalt-blue eyes and dark blue spots on its wings dimpled over reddish-chestnut plumage, it’s surprising this beautiful bird went unnoticed for decades. But now the species has been found at locations in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais.
The rediscovery of the species is one of the most astonishing stories in Neotropical ornithology. However rapid rates of habitat loss in the region mean that many more species could be heading to extinction unless drastic action is taken. So far, researchers can only confirm sightings of 12 individuals, so securing the bird’s habitat will be the key to conserving the species.
Ornithologist Rafael Bessa from Instituto Butantan first spotted the Blue-eyed Ground-dove in July 2015. Collaborating with SAVE Brazil, they formed a research group to study the species in secret. Mindful of the need to properly establish a conservation plan before announcing the rediscovery, the researchers partnered with Rainforest Trust for support.
The researchers are undertaking studies on the biology of the species, especially on behavior, breeding biology and feeding. With the support of Rainforest Trust they are also venturing to places with geographic and environmental features similar to the site of the original rediscovery, aiming to find additional populations. Employing satellite imagery as well as a technique called Ecological Niche Modelling, they are working to predict areas potentially suitable to the species.
Studies suggest that the Blue-eyed Ground-dove has a specific habitat that could be as critically endangered as the bird itself. Found in Brazil’s Cerrado, this wooded savanna ecosystem is one of the most threatened and over-exploited regions of Brazil, second only to the Atlantic Rainforest in vegetation loss and deforestation.
In addition to being the last refuge for the Blue-eyed Ground-dove, hundreds of other bird species, thousands of endemic plants and large mammals like jaguar, maned wolf and giant anteaters all call the Cerrado home.
Discoveries like this highlight the importance of protecting the Cerrado for the Blue-eyed Ground-dove and many other species so that they may rebound, and once again thrive. Rainforest Trust is pleased to announce this astounding rediscovery and support Brazilian partners in their efforts to create a conservation plan for the species and establish a reserve in the future.
Header photo: The Blue-eyed Ground-dove is one of the most exciting avian rediscoveries in decades. Photo by Rafael Bessa.