“The Grail Bird is an enjoyable read . . . A powerful call for conservation, and an exciting bird adventure” (The Boston Globe).
What is it about the ivory-billed woodpecker? Why does this ghost of the southern swamps arouse such an obsessive level of passion in its devotees, who range from respected researchers to the flakiest Loch Ness monster fanatics and Elvis chasers?
Since the early twentieth century, scientists have been trying their best to prove that the ivory-bill is extinct. But every time they think they’ve finally closed the door, the bird makes an unexpected appearance.
To unravel the mystery, author Tim Gallagher heads south, deep into the eerie swamps and bayous of the vast Mississippi Delta, searching for people who claim to have seen this rarest of birds and following up—sometimes more than thirty years after the fact—on their sightings. What follows is his own Eureka moment with his buddy Bobby Harrison, a true son of the South from Alabama. A huge woodpecker flies in front of their canoe, and they both cry out, “Ivory-bill!” This sighting—the first time since 1944 that two qualified observers positively identify an ivory-billed woodpecker in the United States—quickly leads to the largest search ever launched to find a rare bird, as researchers fan out across the bayou, hoping to document the existence of this most iconic of birds.
“The Grail Bird is less an ecological study than a portrait of human obsession.” —The New York Times