Monday, 14 November 2011

Imperial Woodpecker- Lest we forget

The Imperial Woodpecker Campephilus imperialis is (or was!) the largest known species of Woodpecker at a whopping 56-60cm. It is (or was!) endemic to the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in northern Mexico. It is however now classed at Critically Endangered (possibly extinct) as there hasn't been a confirmed sighting since 1956.

It's an impressive bird with a jet black body, white wings and a white 'V' on the back and a call that apparently sounds like a toy trumpet. Both sexes are crested with the males' being blood red and the females' black. It's a close relative of the also ill fated Ivory-billed Woodpecker of the USA and Cuba.

Recently the Cornell Lab of Ornithology released the only known footage of Imperial Woodpeckers in a remote area of the Sierra Madre recorded by Dr William L. Rhein in the 50's.

Apparently it hasn't come to light before now as Rhein was embarrassed by the video quality! It's rather sobering to think that this may be the only footage ever taken of this amazing bird and that there may not be another opportunity ever again.

The thoughts of William Beebe spring to mind:

"The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another Earth must pass before such a one can be again."

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