Lost Birds
© Birds of the World | Cornell Lab of Ornithology [Hilary Burn]

Yellow-crested Helmetshrike

Prionops alberti


Vangas, Helmetshrikes, and Allies (Vangidae)



(17 years)






This spectacular helmetshrike is endemic to four mountain ranges in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and is currently considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. While it was found regularly during bird surveys in the late 1990s (Allan 2020) there have only been a handful of records of the species since then, mostly likely due to few birders and ornithologists visiting its home range. While there were sightings of the species in 2013, there were apparently no documented records of the helmetshrike from 2007 up until its rediscovery in 2023, making it lost for 16 years.

Last Documented

Yellow-crested Helmetshrike was photographed and sound recorded in December of 2023 in Itombwe, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, after being lost for 16 years. Prior to this, the last documented record of the species was a sound recording made by Hamlet Mugabe in 2007.

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  • First photos of the Yellow-crested Helmetshrike!

    John C. Mittermeier / 25 Apr 2024

    Another lost bird has been found! A research team led by the University of Texas in El Paso obtained photos and sound recordings of the incredible Yellow-crested Helmetshrike in the Itombwe mountains in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in late December 2023.

    The team was led by ornithologists Michael Harvey and Matt Brady from the University of Texas El Paso as part of a collaboration with the University of Texas El Paso’s Eli Greenbaum and Chifundera Kusamba, Robert Kizungu Byamana, Chance Bahati Muhigirwa, Mwenebatu M. Aristote and Wandege M. Muninga from the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles.

    You can see Harvey’s photos and sound recordings from the morning he came across the helmetshrikes on December 19 here along with Brady’s observations and incredible photo from Christmas day 2023 here.

    From what we have been able to find, these photos and sound recordings are the first documented records of the helmetshrike since a sound recording of the species was made in 2007, 16 years earlier, and the first-ever photos of the bird in the wild. There have been a handful of more recent sightings of Yellow-crested Helmetshrikes (such as this one in 2013 that may have included sound recordings) but records of the species have generally been few and far between in recent decades.

    The helmetshrike is the ninth Lost Bird that has been found since we launched the Lost Birds list in 2022, leaving 126 Lost Birds still to be rediscovered.

    The eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the global hotspots for Lost Birds with 13 Lost Bird species occurring in the region in addition to the helmetshrike (check the others on the Lost Birds list here). Two of these Congolese Lost Birds are also from the Itombwe region, not far from where the helmetshrike was seen: the Itombwe Owl and Itombwe Nightjar. Could one of these be the next Lost Bird to be rediscovered?

    Check out the press release from University of Texas El Paso to learn more about helmetshrike’s rediscovery: https://www.utep.edu/newsfeed/2024/february/first-known-photos-of-lost-bird-captured-by-utep-scientists.html

    And see the Birds of the World species account to see what else is known about the Yellow-crested Helmetshrike: https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/yechel1/cur/introduction

    Found in just four mountain ranges in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Yellow-crested Helmetshrike is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and is threatened by the loss of habitat in its forest home. You can learn more about its conservation status on the BirdLife International Species factsheet: https://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/yellow-crested-helmetshrike-prionops-alberti

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