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Snowy Egret, Vol. 65, #2
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How confident am I that I found them all? So
confident that I will pay
a reward of $10,000 to the first person who can direct me to a genuine
stuffed Labrador Duck that I have not seen and described in this book.
I don't want to buy the duck; I just want to examine it. After I
have verified its legitimacy, you get the money. There is no point in
trying to fake me out with a duck re-created from bits of other birds;
I've seen it all before.
Curse of the Labrador Duck
My Obsessive Quest to the Edge of Extinction
by Glen Chilton
Simon & Schuster, 2009
this memoir of a curious obsession, ornithologist Glen Chilton recounts
through North America and Europe as he tracks down every known specimen
of the extinct Labrador Duck.
"I embarked on an adventure to examine and
measure every stuffed
Labrador Duck specimen, no matter where it was, without exception. I
was determined to see where the ducks nested (Labrador would be a good
start) and where they wintered (the shallow waters around New York
City). Not allowing myself to stop for a breath, I would examine every
Labrador Duck egg in every museum, and visit every spot on the planet
where the ducks were known to have been shot."
Both a travelogue and a
lesson on extinction, Chilton's
book takes readers along on his low-budget globe-trekking adventure,
describing his visits to museum after museum, encounters with curators,
flirtations with women, and the spare remnant evidence of the Labrador
Duck. The destinations include Labrador and Nova Scotia in Canada,
London and Liverpool in England, Paris, and several small German towns
and Russian villages.
last Labrador Duck sighting reportedly occurred at Elmira, New York on
December 12, 1878. It was a striking black and white eider-like sea
duck, never seen in large numbers, but thought to breed in Labrador. It
wintered from Nova Scotia to as far south as Chesapeake Bay.
The last preserved specimen was shot in 1875 on Long Island, shortly
before the duck became the first bird extinction in North America after
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