This week the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has released video from 1956 of the only known images of a now-extinct bird. The imperial woodpecker, once the world’s largest woodpecker at a whopping two feet tall, used to inhabit the forests of Mexico.
The digitally-restored footage, which you can see below, captures the imperial woodpecker on film foraging for insects. From the images, you can’t really get a good idea of the size, but the bird is very large.
The imperial woodpecker is now widely believed to have gone the way of the dodo because of the destruction of its habitat by the logging industry. It’s a sad and enlightening example of how man’s actions have negative consequences on nature, something I’ve covered before in this post on the Red Kite.
For decades, most people thought the woodpecker had vanished from earth without leaving any photographic evidence until 1992 when reference to the 1956 film was rediscovered in Cornell’s archives. Martjan Lammertink, the person who found the reference, tracked down Dr. William L. Rhein who shot the film. After Dr. Rhein died in 1999, it was given to his nephew who finally gave it to Cornell in 2005. Since then, it’s been studied and restored.
The imperial woodpecker is the closest relative to the elusive Ivory-billed woodpecker that may or may not exist.
Cornell has an amazing story of about the imperial woodpecker you can read here. Now, here’s the amazing footage.