Signature Song

Cuckoo birds, apparently, are not always known for their coo-coo call. The squawk of the Sumatran ground-cuckoo, which sounds more like a cry than a coo, is helping researchers detect and protect the rare species.

"We were extremely lucky to have recorded the bird’s unique call," Firdaus Rahman, a researcher with the Bronx-based Wildlife Conservation Society’s Indonesia Program, said in a New Scientist article. "Our team will use the recording to hopefully locate other Sumatran ground-cuckoos, and to eventually secure their protection." 

For 36 years, people thought that the creature was extinct, according to BirdLife International. Since the bird was first spotted again in 1997, only three sightings have been confirmed—and only in Sumatra. Now, for the first time scientists have recorded the double shriek of the bird. They captured the noise while nursing back to health a Sumatran ground-cuckoo brought in by a hunter who accidentally ensnared the bird in a pheasant trap.  

"With a lot of tropical forest species, you often hear them before you [see] them, so knowledge of their song is absolutely critical," said Adrian Long of BirdLife International in the article.

Ornithologists are also using this method to try to confirm the existence of the ivory-billed woodpecker (a.k.a. the Lord God bird), which many scientists still believe to be extinct.

This finding may help skeptical ornithologists believe that even if sightings are few and far between, bird species once thought to be extinct still might have a chance to sing.


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Issue 25

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