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Rare Bird Looks Downright Stunning In His First-Ever Photos

It's taken decades of searching, but scientists have finally done it - they've captured the very first photos of one of the most elusive and mysterious birds on the planet.

And boy, was it worth the wait.

Just days ago, biologist Chris Filardi, of the American Museum of Natural History's Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, completed a goal nearly 20 years in the making: to find and photograph a moustached kingfisher.

All that was known about these elusive birds, native to the forests of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, came from just three female specimens collected half-a-century prior. Male moustached kingfishers, meanwhile, had never once been observed by scientists before - but that all changed last week. Now we know just how stunning they really are.

In a blog post, beautifully written on location in Guadalcanal, Filardi describes the eureka moment:

When I came upon the netted bird in the cool shadowy light of the forest I gasped aloud, 'Oh my god, the kingfisher.' One of the most poorly known birds in the world was there, in front of me, like a creature of myth come to life. We now have the first photos ever taken of the bird, as well as the first definitive recordings of its unmistakable call.

Update: A previous version of this post indicated that the moustached kingfisher was later released. The Dodo has confirmed with Dr. Filardi that the bird was collected as a specimen for additional study. This decision to not merely photograph, but to kill the bird, has sparked criticism for what many see as the needless taking of a rare animal's life.

As Marc Bekoff, Professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, pointed out in a subsequent op-ed, the killing of animals for the sake of science is an all-too-common practice - one, he argues, which "simply needs to stop."

Read Bekoff's post in its entirety on the Huffington Post.