Tuesday, 19 February 2013

I kissed an Eskimo Curlew......

.... and I stroked a Ivory-billed Woodpecker!

For those who don't know, both of those species are deemed extinct by the greater scientific community. I was privileged to get back stage access to see specimens of these enigmatic birds whilst on a guided tour of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York State.

I gave a talk at the Lab last night that went very well but the highlight of my visit was without doubt going through the draws looking at skins and mounts.
 An Eskimo Curlew
 Look out for this bird - there may still be a few around 

 Male Bachman's Warbler
 Passenger Pigeon
A tray of Bachman's Warblers
Passenger Pigeons were of course hunted to extinction by the early 1900's and the last bird, Martha, died in Cincinnati Zoo in 1913, I believe. They were perhaps the most abundant bird species ever to flap over the earth and it's startling to think about how quickly they were all killed off.

The Eskimo Curlew story has a similar sad ring to it. They too were hunted mercilessly and the last probable sighting was a couple birds seen on migration in Texas during the 80's. However, I think that the last official sighting was in 1962.

Bachman's Warbler is a bit of anomaly. They have have simply just disappeared. Perhaps they were never numerous and perhaps they lost out due to habitat loss. They haven't been seen for a number of years either.

I think that we should all get out there - especially if you are US citizens - and look for these birds. You never know, you could be the person to find one of the three most wanted birds of all time!

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