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Gallicolumba menagei

Tawi-Tawi Bleeding- Heart

Our spirit animal, this bird, was described by its discoverers as  “extremely rare and difficult to find” when they acquired two males in 1891. It has not been observed again up to this day. They initially called it the Tawi-Tawi “Punyalada”, which means “stabbed” in Spanish. All members of this genus are very shy and difficult to observe; we hold hope that it still exists in the remaining forests of Tawi-Tawi.

Prioniturus verticalis

Tawi-Tawi Racquet-tail / Blue-winged Racquet-tail

This bird is currently classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered.

This parrot is limited to the Tawi-tawi group of islands and may have been already extirpated on Sibutu as there were no observations there during a 2018 survey. It is one of the hardest birds to see in the area even as it distinguishes itself from other parrots by its loud creaking call.

The IUCN estimate is that only around 50-249 individuals remain.


Anthracoceros montani

Sulu Hornbill

At an estimate of less than 50 individuals remaining, this is the most endangered hornbill in the world. While it was historically known to have been abundant on neighboring Sulu, the current state of its forests both as a conflict zone and the diminution of its primary forests, leads everyone to surmise that it may already be extinct there. This wonderful bird makes it’s last stand on the forests of Tawi-Tawi. We were very gratified to see 6 individuals in a flock on one survey in Languyan.

Cacatua haematuropygia

Philippine Cockatoo

Once widespread and occurring on most major Philippine islands, the decline of the Philippine Cockatoo population has been nothing less than dramatic. It was once considered a pest of agriculture and is still being poached for wildlife trade to this day. From being common to Critically Endangered has been the narrative for this beautiful parrot.  Despite this, one of its last strongholds is Tawi-Tawi, where the second-highest population still manages to thrive. It was inspiring to see 15 birds on a non-roosting tree during one of our surveys.

Chelonia mydas
Eretmochelys imbricata

Green Sea Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle

 Within the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected Area (the first trans-boundary Protected Area in the world), on the Philippine side, there is a strict protection island called Baguan. It is the only island in the whole region that has nightly turtle nesting. While the vast majority of nesters are Green Sea Turtles, some Hawksbill Turtles also nest on this insufficiently protected habitat.

Thalasseus bernsteini

Chinese Crested Tern

This ornithological enigma is one of Asia’s most threatened birds. With a complex ecology that involves breeding in isolated spots in China, Taiwan, and Korea, this bird then winters in Southeast Asia. It is a further mystery that needs to be explored is that this bird is found to have visited, for the past three years, a small coastal mudflat in Davao del Norte. This bird needs to be protected on the only regular wintering site known thus far. We have logged the first observations of the highest number of four individuals in a non-breeding area, a significant percentage of its world population.

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