Blue Tit by Julian Bhalerao
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Search for the Rarest Bird

Search for the Rarest Bird

Vernon Head

In 1990 an expedition of Cambridge scientists arrived at the Plains of Nechisar, tucked between the hills of the Great Rift Valley in the Gamo Gofa province in the country of Ethiopia. On that expedition they found 315 species of birds; 61 species of mammal and 69 species of butterfly were identified; 20 species of dragonflies and damselflies; 17 reptile species were recorded; 3 frog species were filed; plants were listed. And the wing of a road-killed bird was packed into a brown paper bag.

It was to become the most famous wing in the world.

When the specimens finally arrived at the British Natural History Museum in Tring it set the world of science aflutter. It seemed that the wing was unique, but they questioned, can you name a species for the first time based only on the description of a wing, based on just one wing?

After much to and froing the confirmation was unanimous, and the new species was announced, Nechisar Nightjar, Caprimulgus solala, (solus:only and ala:wing).

This is the story of the expedition, led by Iain Sinclair, that set to find living specimens of the Nechisar Nightjar. 244 pages.

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