In 1709, someone spotted an image of the Virgin Mary in a tree root in northern Colombia. That turned out to be a lifesaver for two rare bird species, the Recurve-billed Bushbird and the Perija Parakeet, which were recently photographed for the first time in the wild.
Thanks to the Virgin sighting, declared a miracle by the Vatican, the remote bamboo forest around the tree root has been preserved as a sanctuary for almost three centuries. In 2005 it was also designated as an Important Bird Area, which attracted ornithologists and birdwatchers.
The new visitors re-discovered the Recurve-billed Bushbird, which had not been seen for 40 years. It’s known as the “smiling” bird because of the curve of its lower bill. Earlier this month, researchers from the Colombia bird-conservation organization Fundación ProAves finally caught the bird on film.
Photographed in the same habitat, the Perija Parakeet (also known as Todd’s Parakeet) is even rarer. Scientists estimate that only 30 to 50 of these birds survive in the wild. It may take another miracle to save them from extinction.—Dawn Stover