“I suppose I realized I was working toward a book when I asked myself, How close can you get to an extinct bird? And then, I set out to try. My journey of combing through museums and specimen drawers was what ultimately spurred the longer narrative. Once I held an extinct bird skin in my hands, I knew I had to start sounding some alarms about our own environmental crises.”
We saw her for the last time in 1944—frantic, wild-eyed, twitching about in her tree. Or rather, 23-year-old wildlife artist Don Eckelberry saw her, having traveled south to Louisiana’s Singer Tract to sketch America’s last Ivory-billed Woodpecker. It was a less than ideal situation. After all, National Audubon Society president John Baker would have much preferred to have found a way to save the bird rather than dispatch a man to sketch her. However, after negotiations with the Chicago Lumber Company broke down (“We are just money grubbers,” the company’s chairman allegedly said), Baker wasn’t left with much of a choice. Since the land couldn’t be spared (and by extension, the bird), Baker sent Eckelberry south in the hopes the artist might preserve her image.