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Good news from Venezuela

Recurve-billed Bushbird, rediscovered!

Good news from Venezuela… First photos of the Recurve-billed Bushbird, rediscovered in Sierra de Perijá on the Colombo-Venezuelan border, just out at: http://www.birdvenezuela.com/venezuela_birds_news_recurve_billed_bushbird.htm where this story can be viewed in its entirety…

The bird had not been seen for almost 40 years and there were no previous sound recordings or photographs. After three trips to the Venezuelan foothills of Sierra de Perijá on the Colombian frontier, Recurve-billed Bushbirds were heard, then seen and captured in April 2004 during a four man Conservation International-financed RAP expedition consisting of ornithologists Miguel Lentino, Jorge Perez-Eman, Irving Carreño and Chris Sharpe working under the auspices of the Venezuela Audubon Society, the Phelps Ornithological Collection and the Tropical Zoology Institute (IZT-UCV).

The bird was initially detected by Sharpe who, working with Perez-Eman, heard an unknown Antbird (Thamnophilid) song in a regenerating farm plot; a whistled imitation then attracted a pair of Bushbirds. At that time, we were fortunate enough to obtain what we presume were the first photographs of the species. Sharpe returned with Mark Sokol and Lanie Langlois four months later to obtain what we believe to be the first sound recordings, detailed behavioural notes and to make a more accurate assessment of conservation issues. The 2004 search took place in an area in which local Colombian farmers had reported seeing the Bushbird regularly. Much of the groundwork for the Venezuelan rediscovery was carried out by Maracaibo-based birder, José Gustavo León, who was the first to find access to the Bushbird habitat and helped considerably with our expedition, as well as accompanying Sokol and Sharpe on our second visit to Perijá in June 2003. The local Colombian farmers were crucial to our fieldwork since they were the first observers, originally claiming that the Bushbird was a regularly inhabitant of their agricultural plots. Sr. Juan Torres Yanes and his family were particularly helpful and his son Eduard accompanied us to several sites at which the Bushbird had apparently been seen. More on the Bushbird's biology and conservation status is to be published soon.

Although it spread a bit in the Neotropical birding world, the news of our encounter with the species in Venezuela was kept relatively quiet for several reasons, not least of which were the fact that we did not really want numbers of birders to immediately descend on a potentially sensitive area, and also because we planned to return to obtain more data for publication. We notified colleagues at BirdLife International immediately, tipped off a couple of Venezuelan birders who we knew would be interested and gave copies of the initial recordings to people who might have been able to search for the species elsewhere. Later, we sent some basic information to Stuart Butchart of BirdLife for the IUCN Red List.

Chris Sharpe

4th July 2014