Sunday, August 04, 2013

"Last of the Curlews" really was the last

In my 1995 book, Rumors of Existence, I held out hope for the Eskimo curlew. While the bird hadn't been definitely identified since one was killed in Barbados in 1963, there were enough sightings to keep the U.S. and Canadian wildlife authorities from declaring it extinct.  This was despite a 1954 novel and later television special, The Last of the Curlews, that chronicled the lives of the world's last curlews.  Now, Canada has joined the US and IUCN in writing the species off.  It was once a very numerous creature (if never as numerous as its compatriot, the passenger pigeon), but was exterminated through deliberate, if sometimes unknowing, human action.  (The 1963 specimen, incidentally, was saved for a museum by an American ornithologist named James Bond, whose name his acquaintance Ian Fleming thought perfect for a spy.)
A sad farewell.

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