Magnificent yellow-crested bird photographed for the first time



The first-ever photograph of the yellow-crested helmetshrike

Matt Brady/The University of Texas at El Paso

A rare bird with a stunning yellow crest has been photographed for the first time in the tropical mountains of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – almost two decades after its last confirmed sighting.

The yellow-crested helmetshrike (Prionops alberti), also known as King Albert’s helmetshrike, is a small bird that lives in the humid forests of the Albertine Rift mountains in central Africa. Adults are covered in glossy black plumage with a splendid crown of bright, golden feathers on their heads. Their eyes are surrounded by distinctive orange tissue called a wattle.

After going unseen for many years, the helmetshrike was listed as a lost species by the Search for Lost Birds partnership.

Michael Harvey at the University of Texas at El Paso and his colleagues finally encountered it again during a six-week expedition to the Itombwe mountains between December 2023 and January 2024.

The team members were wandering through the cloud forests when they stumbled across a group of the elusive birds.

“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,” said Harvey in a statement.

In all, 18 helmetshrikes were spotted at three locations during the expedition. This suggests there may be a healthy population of the birds, which are currently considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The group also spotted other species that were considered lost during the trip, including the red-bellied squeaker frog (Arthroleptis hematogaster), last seen in the 1950s.

“Right now is a golden opportunity to protect these tropical forests, so that we don’t lose species like the helmetshrike before they are known and studied,” said Harvey.



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