The Race to Save the Lord God Bird

The Race to Save the Lord God Bird

by Phillip Hoose


$13.49 $14.99 Save 10% Current price is $13.49, Original price is $14.99. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, July 24


For thousands of years, the majestic Ivorybilled Woodpecker reigned over the dark emerald forests that once carpeted the bottomlands of America's broad southern rivers, as well as the red, rugged mountains of eastern Cuba, where it was called Carpintero real. A phantom bird, always more easily heard than seen, it had a giant, ivory-colored bill prized by Indians and whites alike. But even in the early 1800s, when John James Audubon captured the Ivory-bill's likeness in his ground-breaking book The Birds of America, this species was beginning to disappear. A century later, it was presumed extinct. What happened? The Ivory-bill's story sweeps through two hundred years of history, introducing artists, specimen collectors, lumber barons, plume hunters, and finally -- in Cornell's Arthur A. Allen and his young ornithology student James Tanner -- pioneering biologists who sought to uncover the mystery of birds by studying them alive in their habitats. Their quest to save the Ivory-bill was to culminate in one of the first great conservation showdowns. With lively prose, illuminating images, and meticulous research, Hoose explores the tragedy of extinction. He probes our evolving attitudes toward understanding species and protecting habitat, prompting Publitzer Prize-winning Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson to say: "This is a marvelous book for young and old alike ... a tribute to a legendary animal and the nobility in the human spirit."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250073716
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 02/16/2016
Pages: 222
Sales rank: 245,284
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Phillip Hoose is an award-winning author of books, essays, stories, songs and articles. Although he first wrote for adults, he turned his attention to children and young adults in part to keep up with his own daughters. His book Claudette Colvin won a National Book Award and was dubbed a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2009. He is also the author of Hey, Little Ant, co-authored by his daughter, Hannah, It's Our World, Too!, and We Were There, Too!, a National Book Award finalist. He has received a Jane Addams Children's Book Award, a Christopher Award, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, among numerous honors. He was born in South Bend, Indiana, and grew up in the towns of South Bend, Angola, and Speedway, Indiana. He was educated at Indiana University and the Yale School of Forestry. He lives in Portland, Maine.

Read an Excerpt


To become extinct is the greatest tragedy in nature. Extinction means that all the members of an entire species are dead; that an entire genetic family is gone, forever. Or, as ornithologist William Beebe put it, "When the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again."

Some might argue that this doesn't seem so tragic. After all, according to scientists, 99 percent of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. And there have already been at least five big waves of mass extinction, caused by everything from meteorites to drought. The fifth and most recent wave, which took place a mere 65 million years ago, destroyed the dinosaurs along with about two-thirds of all animal species alive at that time. In other words, we've been through this before.

But the sixth wave, the one that's happening now, is different. For the first time, a single species, Homo sapiens-humankind-is wiping out thousands of life forms by consuming and altering the earth's resources. Humans now use up more than half of the world's fresh water and nearly half of everything that's grown on land. The sixth wave isn't new; it started about twelve thousand years ago when humans began clearing land to plant food crops. But our impact upon the earth is accelerating so rapidly now that thousands of species are being lost every year. Each of these species belongs to a complicated web of energy and activity called an ecosystem. Together, these webs connect the smallest mites to the greatest trees.

This is a story abouta species of the sixth wave, a species that was-and maybe still is-a bird of the deep forest. It took only a century for Campephilus principalis, more commonly known as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, to slip from a flourishing life in the sunlit forest canopy to a marginal existence in the shadow of extinction. Many species declined during that same century, but the Ivory-bill became the singular object of a tug-of-war between those who destroyed and sold its habitat and a new breed of scientists and conservationists dedicated to preserving species by saving habitat. In some ways, the Ivory-bill was the first modern endangered species, in that some of the techniques used today to try to save imperiled plants and animals were pioneered in the race to rescue this magnificent bird.

I say the Ivory-bill "maybe still is" a bird of the deep forest because some observers, including some very good scientists, believe that a few Ivory-bills continue to exist. Since I first became interested in birds in 1975, I have read or heard dozens of reports that someone has just caught a fresh glimpse or heard the unmistakable call of the Ivory-bill. Again and again, even the slimmest of rumors sends hopeful bird-watchers lunging for their boots, smearing mosquito repellent onto their arms, and bolting out the door to look for it. Year after year they return with soggy boots, bug-bitten arms, and no evidence.

The Ivory-bill is a hard bird to give up on. It was one of the most impressive creatures ever seen in the United States. Those who wrote about it-from John James Audubon to Theodore Roosevelt-were astonished by its beauty and strength. They gave it names like "Lord God bird" and "Good God bird." Fortunately, in 1935, when there were just a few left, four scientists from Cornell University took a journey deep into a vast, primitive swamp and came back with a sound recording of the phantom's voice and twelve seconds of film that showed the great bird in motion. It was a gift from, and for, the ages.

Cornell's image sparked a last-ditch effort led by the Audubon Society to save the Ivory-bill in its wilderness home before it was too late. But others were equally intent on clearing and selling the trees before the conservationists could rescue the species.

The race to save the Ivory-bill became an early round in what is now a worldwide struggle to save endangered species. Humans challenged the Ivory-bill to adapt very quickly to rapidly shifting circumstances, but as events unfolded, the humans who tried to rescue the bird had to change rapidly, too. The Ivory-bill's saga-perhaps unfinished-continues to give us a chance to learn and adapt. As we consider the native plants and animals around us, we can remind ourselves of the race to save the Lord God bird and ask, "What can we do to protect them in their native habitats while they're still here with us?"

THE RACE TO SAVE THE LORD GOD BIRD copyright 2004 by Phillip Hoose. Used with the permission of Farrar Straus Giroux.

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Bird of the Sixth Wave3
Prologue: The Hostage ... February 18097
Chapter 1Specimen 60803 ... February 200213
Chapter 2Audubon on the Ivory-billed Frontier ... 1820-183521
Chapter 3"The Road to Wealth Leads Through the South" ... 1865-190029
Chapter 4Two Collectors ... 1892-189435
Chapter 5The Plume War ... 1870-192047
Chapter 6Learning to Think Like a Bird ... 1914-193459
Chapter 7Shooting with a Mike ... 193569
Chapter 8Camp Ephilus ... 193579
Chapter 9Wanted: America's Rarest Bird ... 1937-193989
Chapter 10The Last Ivory-bill Forest ... December 1937-October 1938101
Chapter 11The Race to Save the Lord God Bird ... 1941-1943115
Chapter 12Visiting with Eternity ... 1943-1944125
Chapter 13Carpintero Real: Between Science and Magic ... 1985-1987135
Chapter 14Return of the Ghost Bird? ... 1986-2002147
Maps: The Collapsing Forest: Mapping the Loss of Ivory-bill Habitat156
Epilogue: Hope, Hard Work, and a Crow Named Betty ... The Twenty-first Century and Beyond159
Important Dates for the Protection of Birds, Especially the Ivory-billed Woodpecker165
Picture Credits189

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Race to Save the Lord God Bird 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you think all the "good" things are disappearing here is another one. Just think what we have done in the name of advancement.....
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this brilliant narrative of the process of extinction of the Lord God Bird, we see the history of conservation and realize the impact we have on this fragile world. Both adults and children will find this book fascinating - it reads like a thriller. In the process we see how collectors, fashion, building, etc. impact the environment. I'm a careless consumer, but this book made me really think!
mjspear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A YA book on a very adult issue: the gradual extinction of the magnificent Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The book begins in the 1930s with Ornithologists chasing the few remaining specimens in the Louisiana swamps. As the birds' habitat and range declines, the search becomes more desperate -- and futile. It is a cautionary tale about man's effect upon nature (lumber companies destroy the trees necessary for the Woodpecker) as well a chilling omen for man himself. Nonetheless readers will be cheered by the dedication and effort that the scientists put forth to 'save' the mighty bird.In addition to the story of the Woodpeckers, there are many interesting side-bars on related issues: the rise of the Audubon Society, the "Plume Wars", the death of the Passenger Pigeon, and more.Essential reading for budding naturalists and bird-lovers!
RangerRoss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: At first glance, this book tells the history of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, a species that was once common in the Southern states but is now (arguably, and functionally) extinct. However, the story told by this book chronicles the people who studied and attempted to save this species as much as the bird itself. The range of topics that the author includes in chronicling the decline of the species including reformation, the plume wars, industrialization, WW2, and the modern environmental movement paint a comprehensive picture of the effort that was involved in recording and documenting the dying days of the bird. Many important characters in the environmental movement are present in this history, including Robert Tory Peterson, John James Audubon (both of guide book fame), ¿Doc¿ Allen (who founded the Cornell Ornithology Lab), Harriet Hemenway (who founded the Audubon Society), and Guy Bradley, who is often credited as the first game warden killed in the line of duty. It is of note that this book was published in 2004, before a 2005 contentious sighting in Arkansas about 100 miles north of the area focused on in this book.Personal Reaction and Uses in Class: This book points to a number of issues important in a science classroom, in particular it gives a vivid depiction of niche partitioning and the birds¿ life history strategy. I also like the way it portrays the lives of the scientists as the attempt to gather data on the bird. The book doesn¿t shy away from depicting the ¿shoot and stuff¿ method of collecting data used by 19th and early 20th century naturalists, which could lead to interesting discussions of the ramifications of scientific endeavors; i.e. is it worth studying a phenomena if the study destroys your sample? After all, the collection of finches that Darwin collected from the Galapagos may have changed the course of human history.
LisaMcG on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
2P"The Plume War also gave birth to strong bird protection laws and created the first nature preserves for birds. Perhaps most important, during this time millions of American schoolchildren fished dimes out of their pockets and became Junior Audubon members, learning to study and protect birds rather than shoot them."
nathaliewargo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
3starP. Ages 10 and up. Explores the possible extinction of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and the efforts taken through history to save the species.Does not exhibit RC.
breeks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The passion of the writer, Phillip Hoose, is almost palpable in this book. The awe and drawing power of this elusive bird of many birders is reflected so clearly here. Ironically, so soon after publication, there have been fresh, and definite, sightings of the Lord God bird! This will not detract from this excellent book.
JBD1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very basic, but well-illustrated, account of the Ivory-bill - written just prior to the rediscovery.