(Washington, D.C., October 3, 2019) A lone female Stresemann’s Bristlefront was re-sighted yesterday just outside of the Mata do Passarinho, or “Songbird Forest,” Reserve, Atlantic Forest, Bahia, Brazil. She is the only known representative of the species, making Stresemann’s Bristlefront one of the world’s most endangered birds. Searches for this individual and others had come up empty since the December 2018 sighting of what is likely the same female bird.
Screen capture of “Hope,” a lone female Stresemann’s Bristlefront sighted on October 2 by Alexander Zaidan, Fundação Biodiversitas.
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Alexander Zaidan of Fundação Biodiversitas, American Bird Conservancy’s partner in Brazil, made the observations of the female bristlefront. He immediately shared a digital photo and video of the Oct. 2, 2019sighting.
“The video is extraordinary, showing the lone female bird singing, as birds do to attract others of their kind,” said Amy Upgren, Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) Program Officer at ABC. “So we’ve nicknamed her ‘Hope.’ We’re relieved that she has been re-found, but also heartbroken that she continues to be the only known representative of her species.”
“We will continue to support searches and meanwhile, will do all we can to protect the remaining habitat for the species. It’s possible that other bristlefronts could be just out of sight,” Upgren said.
American Bird Conservancy and Fundação Biodiversitas have been on high alert about the species’ population, which has continued to dwindle over the past several years. However, the species is notoriously difficult to detect and has gone missing before. It had been undetected for more than 50 years when it was rediscovered in 1995, also in the Brazilian state of Bahia.
In 2007, Fundação Biodiversitas, with support from ABC and other organizations, established the Mata do Passarinho Reserve to safeguard habitat for this and other rare species, such as the Banded Cotinga. The reserve preserves an important fragment of Atlantic Forest — one of the most threatened biomes in the world, with less than 10 percent of its original habitat remaining.
Many details of this bird’s life history remain a mystery, but before these details can be studied, the species’ drop toward extinction must be halted. For now, the best chance at saving this species is to protect its remaining habitat.
With a dangerously small population, even slight disturbances could have major impacts on this species, as recent events have illustrated. Over the last five years, this region of northeastern Brazil has suffered an unprecedented drought so severe that it dried up the reserve’s streams. In 2016, fires spread into the reserve, damaging important habitat.
ABC and Fundação Biodiversitas have not given up on the species. “Conservationists have recovered a number of bird species from tiny populations, including the Seychelles Magpie-Robin, Whooping Crane, and Lear’s Macaw. We continue to be hopeful that if we can find more birds and take significant action quickly, this bristlefront population can also grow,” said Gláucia Drummond, Executive Director of Fundação Biodiversitas.
“ABC and our partners across the hemisphere are working hard to conserve this and other bird species on the brink of extinction, and to make sure other species don’t decline to such dangerously low population levels,” said Daniel Lebbin, ABC Vice President of Threatened Species.
Searches are continuing in hopes of locating other bristlefronts, including the female’s mate. ABC and partners are also creating an emergency action plan to protect more habitat. To support these efforts, please contact Amy Upgren.
Work to conserve this area and species is supported by American Bird Conservancy, Fundação Biodiversitas, David and Patricia Davidson, David Harrison, The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, and individual donors.