The discovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird thought to have been extinct for years, in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge should make some folks want to stick their nose in a book on the subject. Here are a few recent publications, starting with one written, illustrated and published in Arkansas.
Big Woods Bird, an Ivory-Bill Story
By Terri Roberts Luneau, Kury Lane Inc. 2005, Little Rock, paper, $10.
Terri Roberts Luneau, whose husband, David, captured the bird on video, tells the story of the Big Woods ecosystem in rhyme, accompanied by nice big oil illustrations by University of Arkansas at Little Rock art major Trevor Bennett. It also tells the story of the search: “Big Woods bird, I know you’re here. Big Woods magic, don’t you disappear! I watch and wonder, I hope and pray, That it really was you I spotted today.”
The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
By James T. Tanner, Dover Reprint, original copyright 1942, paper, $12.95.
The Bible for ivory-billed woodpecker students, Tanner’s book, originally his doctoral thesis, reports his search for the vanishing woodpecker in the Southeastern United States and his study of several pairs in the Singer Tract in Louisiana, an old-growth forest that was being logged even as Tanner studied the bird. It includes information on the bird’s feeding, courtship, nest-building and chick-rearing habits, as well as Tanner’s thoughts on what the bird would need to survive.
The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
By Tim Gallagher, Houghton Mifflin 2005, hardcover, $25.
Gallagher, editor of Living Bird magazine, and his friend Bobby Harrington were working on this hot-off-the-press book when they got a call from Arkansas about the ivory-bill sighting in February 2004. Gallagher tracks down ivory-bill reports from over the years, including one from Pine Bluff, and concludes the tale with his own participation in the super-secret search in Arkansas.
The Race to Save the Lord God Bird
By Philip Hoose, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2004, hardcover, $20.
Hoose tells the history of the ivory bill in a concise, orderly and entertaining fashion that readers of all ages and attitudes toward birds will enjoy; it even includes a glossary. Every school in Arkansas should have a copy. His publication of the book was serendipitous; he was not informed of the secret search taking place in Arkansas. He is now working on an epilogue to the book.
The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species
By Scott Weidensaul, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2002, hardcover, $26.
Weidensaul talks about the 2002 unsuccessful search for the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area in Louisiana, but that’s just a small portion of the lost species tales included in this book, which also examines work to restore prairie dogs and their near-extinct predator, the black-footed ferret; missing big cats, and other man-made insults to nature.