No one has seen the elusive bird in the wild in nearly two decades, but it might still inhabit Vietnam’s war-ravaged mountain valleys.
The Village of Thua Luu, in the central Vietnamese province of Thua Thien-Hue, is tucked into the narrow coastal strip between the Annamite Mountains and the South China Sea. Just behind the railroad tracks is an imposing French Catholic church with a wrought-iron gate bearing the date of its consecration: 1894.
The missionaries who came to what was then French Indochina were often men of science as well as seekers of souls, and a year after the church was built, Father Jean-Nicolas Renauld found in the hills north of Thua Luu four specimens of a bird no European had seen before. It was a pheasant of striking beauty. The male’s plumage was a shimmering, iridescent blue.