It’s not everyday that the actions of a field biologist cause public outrage.
But that’s exactly what happened to Christopher Filardi, a researcher with the American Museum of Natural History, when he killed a rare bird that had not been observed by scientists in nearly a century.
This rare bird is notoriously reclusive. It prefers a very specific and hidden habitat and is only active at dusk and dawn. Only a single female specimen had ever been observed in 1920. A male moustached kingfisher had never been studied and its habits were a mystery to scientists. The chances that anyone would ever succeed in observing and document the rare bird were slim.
Despite the odds, Filardi’s dream of observing the moustached kingfisher in the wild came true last month. While conducting field research in the Solomon Islands, he captured a live moustached kingfisher. He told Slate that it was like finding a unicorn.
Christopher Filardi with the moustached kingfisher. Rob Moyle /American Museum of Natural History
In a blogpost written from the field, Filardi explained that his team’s encounter with the elusive bird required several days of work and close observation. In a remote area of Guadalcanal, his team first heard a unique birdsong, “ko-ko-ko-kokokokkokoko-kiew,” which could only come from a large forest kingfisher. When they heard the sound again, they suspected they had come upon the elusive moustached kingfisher.
Filardi’s team spotted the bird a few moments later. Filardi describes the magical moment: