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The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker - Tim Gallagher This book's mission is to make you believe that the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, thought to be extinct since late last century, is in fact still flapping its way around in the swamps of southeastern U.S.A.

A team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology made the short, blurry film of a large bird flying in a remote swamp and caused a rare controversy in the birding community. What followed the release of the film clip was a flurry of activity in that part of the country where hopeful birders "flocked" for a chance to see a true lazarus species (a species that is mistakenly thought to be be extinct only to be "rediscovered" again). No one claimed success and it's fair to say that this claim is without any merit.

The book tries to build a case for the Ivory Bill's continued existence by first laying out all the reasons why you should in fact be skeptical. Next, after laying that foundation, the book shifts gears and attempts to elicit sympathy from the reader by explaining how Ivory Bill populists are widely dismissed, ostracized by the birding community as wackos, and should given more of a chance.

The book is ultimately unconvincing but you have to admire the passion and dedication the author and his team bring to the party. I don't personally think there will ever be definitive proof that Ivory Bills still exist. Based on the available evidence I am firmly in the camp that believes that this magnificent bird is no longer among us. Tragic as it is, sometimes you just have to let go.