Bird Rediscovered After Decade Disappearance

Author:  Matt Kinsey
Institution:  Boston University
Date:  July 2004

A Mexican bird thought to be extinct for the past 10 years was sighted last month by a team of biologists, according to a report by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and US-based Conservation International (CI).

After several unsuccessful expeditions to spot the Cozumel Thrasher (Toxostoma guttatum) in its native habitat, a field team from Villanova University and the Mexican component of the Island Endemics Institute rediscovered the species by sighting a single bird last month.

"This is terrific news for the species," said Dr. George Wallace, Vice President of International Programs at the ABC. "It opens a door to the establishment of a protected area, if more birds are found."

Located exclusively on Cozumel Island off the Yucatan Peninsula, the Cozumel Thrasher population dramatically declined after Hurricane Gilbert pummeled the region in 1988. Growing numbers of introduced foreign predators and the notorious Hurricane Roxanne of 1995 furthered the bird’s decline. The last glimpse of a Thrasher in 1995 was followed by silence from a species that once numbered in the tens of thousands.

"The rediscovery of the Cozumel Thrasher is a reminder of two key things: the importance of tropical islands for biodiversity conservation, and the importance of never giving up on a species — no matter how rare," said Dr. Russell Mittermeier, president of CI.

Next, the Villanova team will begin estimating the Thrasher’s population density across the whole island. The biologists plan to return to Cozumel in January, when the Thrashers sing more frequently.