Dr. Miguel David De Leon

Baby South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher Photographed For The First Time Ever

Amy Pilkington 7 May 2020

We like to think that we've come a long way from the days of discovery when adventurers wandered into uncharted lands and came back with sketches and specimens of creatures never seen before.

And while we definitely have, that doesn't mean that we aren't making new discoveries all the time or increasing our understanding of old discoveries once thought lost.

In 1890, explorers discovered the South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher, which is one of the country's 255+ unique bird species.

Instagram | @migueldavid.deleon

The tiny birds are colorful, but fast-moving, making them incredibly hard to spot, let alone photograph.

In the 130 years since the subspecies was first discovered, there have been few sightings and even fewer clear photos captured.

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Learning more about these birds and their neighbors has been a goal of Dr. Miguel David De Leon for more than ten years now.

Though he's an eye surgeon by day, De Leon and his birding group, the Robert S. Kennedy Bird Conservancy, spend their free time huddled deep in the wilderness of the Philippines, waiting for the perfect specimen to snap a few photos and maybe catch a video or two.

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But for all these years, it's been difficult to understand the lifecycle of this tiny bird, because no fledgling had ever been captured on camera.

Instagram | @migueldavid.deleon

The species makes their nests in cavities in trees, meaning that their young are hidden away from view.

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Finally, during a long wait on March 11, 2020, De Leon got what he wished for.

Dr. Miguel David De Leon

For 10 minutes, a fledgling sat on a branch and De Leon was able to snap the first photos ever of a juvenile south Philippine dwarf kingfisher.

Being able to get a look at the changes in coloring — such as the fledgling's black beak — will allow researchers to learn a lot more about the species, its history, and how conservation efforts can protect it going forward.

Also: the baby is really freaking cute.

h/t: The New York Times, Esquire Philippines, Instagram | @migueldavid.deleon

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