U.S. scientists searching for the rare imperial woodpecker, once considered the world’s largest woodpecker species but now thought to be extinct, have
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
unearthed an 85-second film of the bird in its long-vanished habitat. It is the only known footage of the bird, which was two feet high and the closest relative of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which is also believed to be extinct. The 16mm color film — shot in 1956 by Pennsylvania dentist and amateur ornithologist William Rhein in Durango, Mexico’s old-growth pine forest — captures an adult female as she quickly scales the trunk of a pine tree, takes four pecks at the tree, and then launches into flight. The film was discovered by Martjan Lammertink, a researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
who has authored a new paper in the journal The Auk
about a 2010 expedition to the same region of Durango in search of the imperial woodpecker.