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Book describes a valiant quest to find Mexico’s Imperial Woodpecker

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Imperial Woodpecker specimens photographed at Museum Wiesbaden in Germany. Photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm (Creative Commons)
Imperial Woodpecker specimens photographed at Museum Wiesbaden in Germany. Photo by Fritz Geller-Grimm (Creative Commons)

In the June 2013 of BirdWatching magazine, we described 19 new books about birds that belong in your library — and in the hands of your favorite young birder. Here is what we wrote about Imperial Dreams, Tim Gallagher’s recent book about Mexico’s Imperial Woodpecker:

ImperialDreams coverTim Gallagher, editor of Living Bird, was a key member of the team that searched for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the mid-2000s. In this book, he tells of a more recent, equally valiant quest: to find an Imperial Woodpecker, the Ivory-bill’s larger Mexican cousin.

During several treks to the Sierra Madre, he talks to anyone he can about the pitoreal and, at great personal risk, searches the mountains in hopes of seeing it. He uncovers recent, credible, previously unreported sightings by locals but does not find a woodpecker. An interview with an elderly man in a remote village, however, produces a shocking discovery: Years ago, logging companies provided poison and paid bounties to locals who brought in dead pitoreales. Poisoning likely led to the sudden demise of the bird in the 1950s and ’60s, Gallagher suggests.

The bird’s tragic fate, of course, pales in light of the long-running brutal drug war that has claimed thousands of lives in the region. To his credit, Gallagher does not shy away from describing the violence. The stark reality is that if the bird were to be rediscovered, protecting it would be next to impossible as long as lawlessness rules the land.

Imperial Dreams: Tracking the Imperial Woodpecker through the Wild Sierra Madre by Tim Gallagher, Atria Books, 2013, 304 pages, $26 hardcover, $11.04 Kindle Edition, $12.99 Nook Edition

Look for roundups of notable new books about birds in every June and December issue of BirdWatching magazine.



Publishers and authors:

If you’ve brought out a book that we should consider reviewing, send it here:


BirdWatching Magazine
Madavor Media, LLC.
25 Braintree Hill Office Park, Suite 404
Braintree, MA 02184
[email protected]

 Updated on Nov. 6, 2013, to show Madavor Media’s new mailing address.


Originally Published

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