A species of bird so rare it was thought perhaps to be extinct was captured on video and still images in the Phillipines province of Nueva Vizcaya… right before it was cooked and eaten.

The Worcester’s buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri) lives only in the Phillipines, but had not been seen in many years, and was previously only known through illustration based on dead specimens collected centuries ago. One wild live buttonquail was inadvertently filmed in a mountainous area during the making of a documentary on the traditional methods of bird-trapping in northern Luzon. But neither the local crew nor the bird-trappers at the time of the filming understood how rare the bird was, so it was sold at a poultry market, then cooked and eaten.

The bird had already been consumed by the time its image was noticed in a viewing of the bird-trapping documentary by a member of the World Bird Club of the Phillipines. The WBCP reported the posthumous discovery of the extremely scarce bird. Mike Lu, the club’s president said: “We are ecstatic that this rarely seen species was photographed by accident. It may be the only photo of this poorly known bird. But I also feel sad that the locals do not value the biodiversity around them and that this bird was sold for only P10 and headed for the cooking pot”. P10 is about twenty American cents.

Desmond Allen was the WBCP member who was watching the appropriately named documentary “Bye-Bye Birdie” when he spotted the buttonquail in a still image among the credits. Mr. Allen is a life-long birder, with 50 years of experience. He maintains an extensive collection of bird calls on his ipod. The trapping documentary is viewable on YouTube via the producer’s blog.

The extremely rare quail is listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species as ‘data deficient’, which means there is not enough data available to determine an animal’s conservation status.

Image Credit: Arnel Telesforo