“Lord God Birds”

Left: Ivory Billed Woodpecker by John James Audubon;

Right: Imperial Woodpecker by John Livzey Ridgway

In the world of ornithology and bird watching, scale is as important as plentiful plumage, vivid color or song style.  From Cuba’s Mellisuga helenae (bee hummingbird) to the Andean Condor, life lists are often based on superlatives.  The Campephilus (woodpecker) family has its own followers, especially the larger species that have eluded scientists and amateurs alike for decades.

While in Chaihuín, part of the Nature Conservancy’s Valdivian Coastal Reserve in Chilean Patagonia, we saw the Magellanic Woodpecker, a sighting that preceded a “Stop the Jeep!” moment of excitement.  Part of that excitement was based on the memory of a Cornell Lab of Ornithology film we’d recently seen about the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Continue reading