Watch: Bird Thought Extinct After Hurricane Matthew Is Rediscovered

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, one of the world's most rare birds was feared extinct—until now.

Matthew Gardner and David Pereira, students at the University of East Angila in England, recently rediscovered the Bahama Nuthatch during a three-month expedition into the forest on Grand Bahama Island. However, this doesn't mean the bird is completely out of the woods yet.

The Bahama Nuthatch is known for their highly pitched, distinctive squeaky call and long bill, and they live on the island of Grand Bahama, according to the Ecostudies Institute. The bird will only nest in mature pine trees, so when timber removal became extreme in the area, their population declined dramatically. In 2004, there were an estimated 1,800 Bahama Nuthatches, but by 2007, researchers were only able to spot 23. More recently, hurricanes and storm surges killed large portions of their native forest.

"The Bahama Nuthatch is a critically endangered species, threatened by habitat destruction and degradation, invasive species, tourist developments, fires and hurricane damage," Diana Bell, a senior lecturer at the University of East Angila's School of Biological Sciences, said in a statement. "Our researchers looked for the bird across 464 survey points in 34,000 hectares of pine forest. It must have been like looking for a needle in a haystack. They played out a recording of the bird's distinctive call in order to attract it."

The team from the University of East Angila were able to spot the bird in May and so was a team of researchers from the University of The Bahamas-North, who were supported by the American Bird Conservancy.

"We were the first to undertake such an exhaustive search through 700km of forest on foot," Matthew Gardner said in a statement. "We had been scouring the forest for about six weeks and had almost lost hope. At that point, we'd walked about 400km. Then, I suddenly heard its distinctive call and saw the unmistakable shape of a Nuthatch descending towards me. I shouted with joy, I was ecstatic!"

Bahama Nuthatch
A recently rediscovered Bahama Nuthatch sits in a tree. The Bahama Nuthatch is known for their long bills and squeaky call. MATTHEW GARDNER/UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGILA

The English team had six Nuthatch sightings while the Bahamian group made five sightings, including one of what appeared to be two birds together.

"During three months of intensive searching, we made six Bahama Nuthatch sightings. Our search was extremely thorough but we never saw two birds together, so we had thought there might only be one left in existence," Gardner said. "The other team have reported seeing two together so that is promising. However, these findings place the species on the verge of extinction and certainly amongst the world's most critically endangered birds."

This finding could mean that only two birds remain. The scientists note that often when birds dwindle to such small numbers only male birds remain, so growing the population isn't usually possible. However, they don't yet know the sex of the discovered birds.