Sporting a curving beak that resembles an enigmatic smile, this rare and elusive recurve-billed bushbird was recently rediscovered by scientists in Colombia after a 40-year absence. In fact, this photograph, taken by a conservationist with the Colombia-based nonprofit Fundación ProAves, is the first ever taken of a live bushbird.
Our feathered Mona Lisa had not been seen between 1965 and 2004 because of the bird's limited range and remote habitats. But researchers found the bird in a 250-acre (101-hectare) reserve next to the Torcoroma Holy Sanctuary near the Colombian town of Ocaña, where in 1709 locals claimed to have seen the image of the Virgin Mary in a tree root. Deforestation and wildfires for agriculture and grazing have destroyed much of the bushbird's haunts, according to conservationists.
"[A]s more and more remote areas are being settled, the bushbird reminds us how important it is to conserve as much natural habitat as we can," says Paul Salaman of the American Bird Conservancy. "Who knows what wonderful biodiversity is being destroyed before it has had a chance to be discovered?" :: National Geographic