Malacocincla perspicillata. Does this Latin name mean anything to you? If not, don’t worry. Perhaps the same name in English will be more familiar: the black-browed babbler. And if it still isn’t ringing any bells, that's no surprise since this little bird had been extinct for 172 years. And if we're able to speak in the past tense here, that is because the black-browed babbler has reappeared!
A coincidental rediscovery
This small passerine bird of about four inches, which has red eyes, reappeared on October 5th, 2020 on the island of Borneo, in Indonesia. It was rediscovered by two locals during a trip in the forest. As the Oriental Bird Club wrote in an article, the two men ‘came across an unknown species of bird.’
They caught this bird and then released it after taking pictures.
Two ornithological groups were contacted in the aftermath and scientists confirmed that the mysterious bird was a black-browed babbler.
‘The biggest enigma’
BirdingASIA, a specialist journal, describes this reappearance as an ‘illumination.’ And it goes even further:
This bird is often regarded as the greatest enigma in Indonesian ornithology. It is breathtaking to think that it is not extinct and that it lives in low altitude forests.
The last recorded specimens of the black-browed babbler date back to the 1850s. A French ornithologist, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, had described this bird following its discovery by the German Carl A.L.M. Schwaner ten years earlier. This specimen was stuffed and is on display at the National Museum of Natural History in the Netherlands.
For the time being, specialists cannot return to the site to study these birds, due to the current health crisis. More information and images of the black-browed babbler can be seen in the video at the top of the article.