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Exceptionally well written account of the search for the legendary ivory-billed woodpecker.

  • May 3, 2010

Every once and a while I enjoy picking up a book about a topic that I know very little about. Normally I am predisposed to reading books about history or politics. Some years ago I read an interesting article in the newspaper about the rediscovery of a bird that had been thought extinct for over half a century.  That story piqued my curiosity.  A few days later I came across a copy of "The Grail Bird:  Hot On The Trail of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker" at my local library.  I could not wait to read all about it.

Tim Gallagher is editor in chief of "Living Bird", the flagship publication of Cornell's renowned Lab of Ornithology. Besides being a superb writer he is also an accomplished photographer and outdoorsman.  Tim had long been fascinated by the very idea that there might still be some ivory-billed woodpeckers hanging around in the swamps and bayous of the MIssissippi Delta.  And he was determined to be part of the effort to find out once and for all if this unspeakably beautiful bird still existed.  This is what "The Grail Bird" is all about.

The last known picture of this incredible bird was taken by ornothologist Arthur A. Allen way back in 1935.  That wonderful photograph is included in "The Grail Bird".  Indeed, the last confirmed sighting of the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker had been way back in 1944.  Since that time, there had been sporadic sightings of the bird in various areas but the conventional wisdom was that the bird became extinct after it's habitat was pretty much decimated by loggers in the 1940's.  In spite of this, a small and dedicated group of ornithologists and weekend birders clung to the hope that the bird still existed.  Beginning in the mid 1960's reports of ivory-billed woodpecker sightings began to crop up once again. Soon after David Kulivan's 1999 sighting at the Pearl River Wildlife Sanctuary in Louisiana momentum began to build to determine once and for all whether this species still existed
"The Grail Bird: Hot On The Trail of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker" is Tim Gallagher's chronicle of the recent efforts to "rediscover" the ivory-billed woodpecker.  The story is filled with wonderful places and colorful charactors.  It is a story about great adventure and dogged determination.  This book grabbed my attention right from the start and never let go.  I simply could not put it down.  All sorts of people can enjoy "The Grail Bird".    Very highly recommended!

Exceptionally well written account of the search for the legendary ivory-billed woodpecker. Exceptionally well written account of the search for the legendary ivory-billed woodpecker.

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Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About the Book

The ivory-billed woodpecker — ghost bird of the swamp. Big, beautiful, iconic, and mysterious, the bird is a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with our relationship to the environment. First plundered by nineteenth-century collectors and then a victim of massive habitat destruction, the bird has been sought for decades by those trying to determine whether this remarkable species still exists. Their findings have been met with ridicule and scorn; since the early twentieth century, most of the scientific world has believed that the ivory-billed woodpecker is extinct.

But when author Tim Gallagher set out to write The Grail Bird, he mounted his own quest for the elusive bird and discovered the amazing truth: the ivory-billed woodpecker lives!

The Grail Bird goes behind recent headlines to tell the story of Tim Gallagher's pursuit and discovery of the bird. Editor in chief of Living Bird, the flagship publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Gallagher couldn't (and wouldn't) accept the idea that the ivory-bill was gone forever. He set out to learn everything he could about the bird, tracking down and interviewing dozens of people who claimed to have seen it, reading everything he could find, and finally hitting the swamps himself to explore potential ivory-bill habitats across the South. An irrefutable sighting by Gallagher and a colleague in February 2004 quickly led to the largest search ever mounted to find a rare bird, as researchers fanned out ...
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ISBN-10: 0618456937
ISBN-13: 978-0618456932
Author: Tim Gallagher
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Date Published: May 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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