Top ten animals – #3, Ivory-billed Woodpecker

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, is a bird which any birder would be keen to see just because it’s big and spectacular-looking.

(Audubon painting of some ivorybills, from Wikipedia)

But, of course, that wouldn’t be enough to get it onto my list above other even more spectacular species like the Satyr Tragopan or the Victoria Crowned Pigeon.

No, it’s because it came back from the dead last year. For me, that was the happiest news story of 2005. Every time a species is rediscovered that was thought to be extinct, it raises a flicker of hope that all those others will turn up somewhere – a colony of Great Auks on an obscure island off Finland, perhaps. For a big, dramatic species to go unseen for decades in one of the most-birded countries on earth makes anything seem possible.

The ivorybill is known as the ‘Lord God bird’ – because of people’s reaction on seeing them, rather than in reference to Christ’s habit of banging his head against trees.

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