An American Museum of Natural History researcher has, ahem, ruffled a few feathers after he went ahead and killed a rare bird in the name of research.

The timeline goes as follows: On a trip to the Solomon Islands to research endemic wildlife in the jungle, scientist Christopher Filardi stumbled on an amazing find: A male Moustached Kingfisher, a colorful bird so rarely spotted that it had never been photographed. Filardi had spent 20 years searching for the notoriously shy specimen—prior to his trip, information on the Kingfisher was limited to three female sightings in the 1920s and 1950s.

“Initially it was a surreal, childlike sense of a mythical beast come to life," Filardi told the Audubon Society.

Filardi and his team spent several more days observing the bird and his kin, and finally, they netted one, “a gorgeous, strong, and raucous” male. They capped their trip by photographing the bird, then releasing it back to its habitat to flourish killed it. The End!

Whoops, not the end. PETA, along with other wildlife lovers, are pissed that the heartening tale of science and discovery took such a morbid twist.

"It is a tired and nonsensical, self-serving claim that you must kill some animals in the name of research so as to study them enough to save them," PETA Senior Director Colleen O’Brien told the Daily News. "This argument is as daft as Walter Palmer saying he shot Cecil the lion with a high-powered crossbow to save other lions." She called the death of the bird—described as "an individual with feelings, interests, a home, and perhaps a mate"—perverse and cruel.

Filardi followed up with an op-ed. In a quiet enough setting, you can almost hear his exasperated sighs.

For a quarter century I have worked to sustain wild country, the nations of non-human organisms thriving there, and our own species’ interactions with these places—the ragged, untrammeled edges of a world increasingly dominated by our collective patterns of consumption. Our recent fieldwork was not just about finding the Moustached Kingfisher. This was not a “trophy hunt.”

I have spent time in remote, and not so remote, forests of the Solomon Islands across nearly 20 years. I have watched whole populations of birds decline and disappear in the wake of poorly managed logging operations and, more recently mining. On this trip, the real discovery was not finding an individual Moustached Kingfisher, but discovering that the world this species inhabits is still thriving in a rich and timeless way.

He goes on to say that researchers estimate around 4,000 such birds inhabit the island—robust for a large island bird. "Though sightings and information about the bird are rare in the ornithological community, the bird itself is not," he writes. "As I wrote from the field, this is a bird that is poorly known and elusive to western science—not rare or in imminent danger of extinction."

He also puts a pin in O'Brien's pat assertion that the only tools required to document the bird "was compassion, awe, and a camera, not disregard and a death warrant."

Though finding this kingfisher and its world is heartening, the future for the species is far from secure. Like all single-island endemics, threats to persistence include habitat transformation from mining and logging, invasive species (that if not controlled will continue to overrun most tropical islands on earth) and a changing climate that could shift forest dynamics in ways that push higher elevation species literally up and out into the heavens.

These are real and enduring threats, not the fault of some mining company or unscrupulous logger. These are threats from all of us who use petroleum and petro-chemicals, consume wood products, invest in extractive industry, or type on computers filled with metals dug from places rich in ore like the realm of the Mbarikuku.

The specters of extinction for island birds loom in today’s world. The collection of a single Moustached Kingfisher is not among them. And, beyond advancing science, I believe this act will positively impact the kingfisher’s world.

For further reading, see: The trolley problem.