Celebrations as the black-browed babbler returns after 170 years’ absence.

People from Indonesia and around the world are celebrating the black-browed babbler’s incredible reappearance, having been declared extinct for almost two centuries!

“What’s a ‘black-browed babbler?!”

You may well ask! The black-browed babbler is a songbird that belongs to the Pellorneidae family, feeding on nuts, leaves and fruits. The black-browed babbler is known to be a species native to Asia, with the last known specimens having passed on in the Netherlands over 100 years ago. The chocolate-coloured bird derived its name from Napoleon’s nephew, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, after he found the bird in the East Indies several centuries ago.

How was it discovered?

The discovery occurred when two Indonesian locals, Muhammad Rizky Fauzan and Muhammad Suranto, were out bird-watching in a forest in their local province some time during the early weeks of January 2021. They noticed the distinctive small features of the bird; its grey-chocolate feathers that matched the tall trees of the South Kalimantan Province. Curious, the pair of bird-watchers photographed the babbler and forwarded the pictures to BW Galetus, their local bird-watching club.

More members of the club, most of whom had identified the bird as the famous extinct black-browed babbler, had to see this historic event for themselves to believe it; the formal identification was followed by a series of thanks and prayers to God for the discovery.

The pictures were forwarded to expert ornithologist, Dr. Li Yong, a professional conservationist at the organisation ‘BirdLife International’, in Singapore.

Speaking with the New York Times, Dr. Yong declared that he could hardly believe the event when he was told about it. “It took me a while to come to grips with this thing,” According to spectators, Dr. Yong had a tear in his eye when he examined the photograph, declaring them to be genuine. Dr. Yong further stated, “This is a really big deal for Indonesian ornithology—as shocking as rediscovering the passenger pigeon or Carolina parakeet. But this is closer to home, a bird from the part of the world I live in!”

What next?

Research has begun by the Indonesian government to discover more spots across the country where the black-browed babbler could be habiting. It is hoped by the government, as well as by the bird club, that this discovery would offer a significant boost to the Indonesian bird-watching industry, attracting tourists from all over the world to see this once-extinct bird.

As the new discoverers of this extinct bird, Muhammad Rizky Fauzan and Muhammad Suranto have earned themselves the status of ‘expert bird-watching guides’ from the Indonesian government. Several NGOs and multinational organisations hope to start up a formal exploration for the bird in the Indonesian forests, once COVID-19 travel restrictions ease up around the world. 


The black-browed blabber has attracted a great deal of attention since its claimed find in the Indonesian forest, after 170 years of officially declared extinction. The majority of professionals believe the bird might be located in other parts of Asia, Africa and Australia, lurking deep in the thick forests. 

It is hoped that more specimens of this beautiful bird will be found and provide inspiration for the confirmed existence in other remote parts of the world of other creatures which have been declared, and are still thought to be, extinct.


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