Imperial video

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has on its website the only known footage of an imperial woodpecker. The shaky video was filmed in 1956 by William L. Rhein in Mexico as the majestic bird explored the trunks of Durango pines. As far as is known, no one has seen an imperial woodpecker since.
The imperial woodpecker’s closest kin is the fabled ivory-billed woodpecker. Both are believed to be extinct, although there have been reported sightings of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the U.S. South in recent years. I suppose their closest cousin in the North is the pileated woodpecker, which is definitely not extinct.
The website also includes a two-minute video in which Rhein was interviewed, speaking over footage of that small 1956 expedition.
You can see both videos, and more, here.

Have you seen “The Big Year”? Have you seen a bird that puzzled you? Do you have a bird picture to share? Mini-reviews, questions, comments and pictures always welcome at

A movie about … birding?

20th Century Fox’s “The Big Year” opens Friday. It’s based on the nonfiction book of the same name about three obsessed guys going all out in the competition to see the most species of birds in North America in a single year. I don’t know if the movie will be set in 1998, but that was when it happened, and each of the three men saw more than 700 species that year. That’s a lot for a lifetime let alone a year, I’d say.
I don’t know if Duluth is mentioned in the movie, but it was in the book. Two of the three real-life birders spent time during the year in Duluth and in the Sax-Zim Bog. The top birder of the three made it to Duluth several times, including on Christmas Eve, when he made one last attempt to find a great gray owl in the bog. That led to my favorite sentence in the book: “He tried to think of anyone who would want a bird so much that he would eat alone in a Chinese restaurant in Duluth on Christmas Eve.”
You can watch a trailer for the movie, which stars Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin, here.

Meanwhile, the folks at Audubon have launched an Internet campaign to take advantage of the attention the movie may bring to birdwatching.
Audubon’s news release puts it this way: “Visitors to over 100 websites — including AOL, Slate, Discovery Channel and more — will encounter unexpected avian visitors — each inviting them to find more birds to add to their lists.
Clicking on the animated birds on the websites will take players to the Audubon Facebook page, where you can collect and trade “bird cards.” The first players to collect all the birds will win prizes, including a voyage to the Galapagos Islands.
It sounds a tad bit easier than what the men played by Black, Wilson and Martin went through.

Your bird pictures and stories always welcome here: