|Female imperial woodpecker and |
Ijams executive director Paul James
And speaking of ghost birds, which I often do. Paul James and I visited the archives at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in 2005.
We were there to see their ivory-billed woodpecker and passenger pigeon specimens. Chilling sight, so many study skins lying in wooden trays, most collected in the late 1800s and early 1900s when everyone wanted to own something rarer than St. Elmo's fire.
"Endangered species" wasn't a term in use yet, they were referred to as "vanishing species." They weren't endangered, they were disappearing, so let's get one. Wildlife conservation was decades away. And over the years the various collected dead things, preserved with toe tags, have been donated to the Smithsonian. There they lay in aeternum et semper.
Just before we left the archives, Paul asked curator James Dean, "Do you have an imperial woodpecker?"
"Sure," he said, "I'll go get it."
Native to the mountains of Mexico, the imperial (Campephilus imperialis) is closely related to the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis).
When Dean returned he had an amazing specimen of a female imperial mounted on a log.
And now a historic home movie taken in 1956 by William Rhein, a dentist from Pennsylvania, has been discovered and released by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Perhaps the last or one of the last sightings of the lordly species on its home range.
Did I say "Wow!"?
Go to: imperial