m. hofferber books The Nature Pages outrider
Farm & Garden
Guidebooks & How-to
Nature Writing
Science Writing
Explore the natural world with Snowy Egret, the oldest independent U.S. journal of nature writing.

Snowy Egret, Vol. 65, #1
Snowy Egret, Vol. 65, #2

Review recent nature writing, natural history and guidebooks with Book Notes Wild

Listen to the best of the environmental new age CDs discovered by the Outrider Sound Tracker.

book search archives
The Curse of the Labrador Duck

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.

The Curse of the Labrador Duck
My Obsessive Quest to the Edge of Extinction
by Glen Chilton
Simon & Schuster, 2009

In this memoir of a curious obsession, ornithologist Glen Chilton recounts his travels 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.

The 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 1500.

Back to The Nature Pages