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October 2004
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LOUISIANA WETLANDS
Feathers in His Cap


The population of the largest woodpecker in North America, the crow-size ivorybill, was already small by March 1938, when guide J. J. Kuhn and ornithologist James Tanner banded this baby in a Louisiana swamp. After jumping from its nest, the little ivorybill "climbed up Kuhn's arm . . . until it reached his shoulder . . . and gave a few sharp taps on his cap. . . . Upward it climbed until it was perched on the cap," wrote Tanner, who returned it to its nest. Though Tanner sighted the same bird the next year, only a few more ivorybills were ever seen, anywhere. The last confirmed sighting was in 1971 in southern Louisiana. Most ornithologists now believe the ivorybill is no more.  
     
—Margaret G. Zackowitz





October Flashback
Photograph by James T. Tanner, National Audubon Society



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