It is often said in sympathy or defiance that where there’s life, there’s hope. The difficult truth is also that where there’s life, there’s death. Not only will every organism alive today eventually shuffle off this mortal coil but, in time, each and every species will transition from present to past tense. A mad, magical menagerie of avifauna have already died off, a tradition established by the ur-bird itself, Archaeopteryx. So many (some would say too many) enchanting species have followed it into the annals of history from the mighty Moa to the dimwitted Dodo, parakeets (Carolina) to pigeons (Passenger).
Extinction doesn’t just occur over geological time. Today, we have front-row seats to the imminent demise of scores of species. The Cozumel Thrasher may be clinging to life on its Yucatan isle, assuming it’s not already gone. Such is the fate of the Mauritius Fody, Cebu Flowerpecker, and an entire raft of rare endemic Hawaiian birds.
But where there’s life, hope truly does exist. Having just lost someone very close to me, I know that those who pass on live in the hearts and memories of those who remain. Through our remembrance of loved ones, we take to heart valuable lessons, knowledge that enriches the present and sustains the future. So it is with the avian species we’ll never observe again outside of museums and painted portraits. Perhaps the Ivory-billed Woodpecker had to die so that the Red-cockaded Woodpecker could live. Maybe the Cerulean and Kirtland’s Warblers will veer away from the enigmatic end of Bachman’s Warbler. To remember and celebrate a species past is a step towards protecting those in the present.
One person who does a superior job of bringing bygone birds into our current context is Carrie Laben. While Carrie has a lot of love for say, the Labrador Duck, she reserves her highest praise for Pinguinus impennis. The name of her outstanding blog, Great Auk – or Greatest Auk? should give away her affection for this erstwhile auk. She writes about contemporary birds too so you should definitely explore her work but be sure to start with her summertime song stylings in I and the Bird #77.
What birds, past or present, are you writing about? Share your fondest, sharpest, or erudite-est observations with the appreciative audience of I and the Bird. The next edition will be hosted by the lovely and talented Liza Lee Miller of It’s Just Me. Please send your links and summaries to me or Liza Lee (lizaleemiller AT gmail DOT com) by Tuesday, June 24 for the 6/26 edition.