Thick as locusts, russet and gray fliers, “the birds poured in in countless multitudes.” Voracious migrants “wandering about,” eating, consuming everything, beechnuts, acorns, chestnuts. Blueberries, grapes, cherries, mulberries, poke berries, the fruit of dogwoods. Earthworms, caterpillars, snails (in breeding season), wandering multitudes, “passing in undiminished numbers….three days in succession.” Three days in succession. Tens of thousands at a time darkening the sky. Passager, “Obscured as by an eclipse,” like the sound of thunder approaching. Cheap meat for slaves and the poor. Extinct.[*]
Louisiana Carolina conure
Greeny-blue periquito, cream-capped “little” “wig”. Parrot, parakeet, twelve to thirteen inches long, wild orange eyespot and blue. Blue bodied, Louisiana long-tailed conure. Cone tail. Noisy nesting in tree hollows, cypress and sycamore. Bottomland parrot, swamp parrot voraciously sampling orchards and vines: thieves, raiders, robbers. Kelinky among the Chickasaw, their flesh poisoned cats. Painted by Audubon, greeny-blue and cream-capped carcasses. Periquito. Women’s hats, deforestation. Extinct.
Slender with a slight and downward. Warbler, slender, possessing a slightly downward curving beak. Some certain, in earlier times, along the Lower Suwannee. Olivegreen passerine with yellow lores yellow abdomen. Yellow-bellied Bachman amid swampy blackberry and cane thickets, Zeep- (the millinery trade) –zzzzzip. Warbler, “sparrow” “shaped” Passeriformes. Yellow shoulder patch and bright rump, black and gray and olive-gray. Males more vivid than their mates. In low-lying wet forests: oaks, hickories, black gums. Lost breeding and wintering habitat, last seen (hats and haberdashery) 1988. A severe decline. Extinct.
Blue-backed and red-capped giant, shiny black giant. Amid woods. White upper and lower wing trailing: Grail Bird, Lord God Bird. And black. Red capped, red crowned emperor of the Singer Tract, Madison Parish, Louisiana. Last Southern primeval forest tract. A logging tract, forest cut into oblivion by Chicago Mill and Lumber Company. Board feet better than the Lord God (Bird). Godbird. By spring 1944, a single female Ivory-bill found in a small stand of uncut timber, adrift in devastation: last verified sighting. Grail bird. Critically imperiled, extinct in Louisiana. Lord God. Definitely, or probably, extinct.
Curlew, a clear whistling call: “target of choice” among market hunters after extirpating the passenger pigeon. A twenty-year assault, thousands killed at a time, pursued autumn and spring, migrants traversing the globe in long elliptical arcs. Eskimo Curlews, shorebirds: migration spanning the high arctic tundra to Tierra del Fuego. Lost tall-grass prairie, migratory insect hunters. Lost pasturage, lost Rocky Mountain grasshoppers, grasshopper forage. Fields, pastures, dry edges of marshes, vegetated dunes. Whatever remains. Browny-green or blue eggs. Mottled brown and white throated birds. “formerly part of the established biota, possibly still persisting…” Not seen for thirty years. Not seen. Almost certainly extinct.
White with red crown, red patch along cheeks and down, black wing-tips and long dark legs. Wetlands, marshes, mudflats, wet prairies, and fields. Their whooping sound or cry, bugling. Unison call of crane pairs, waking at dawn. One to three eggs, blotchy, olive-colored eggs, one juvenile. One white and cinnamon-brown juvenile. Decimated by habitat loss and hunting. 1941: 21 wild, two captive birds. 2011: 437 wild, 165 captive. One of only two native North American crane species, Grus Americana. Endangered in Louisiana. Reestablished in White Lakes Wetlands Conservation Area, 47 birds. 47 birds. Critically imperiled.
[*] Quotes from John James Audubon. All paintings are also by Audubon.
Marthe Reed is has published five books: Nights Reading (2014); Pleth, with j hastain (2013); (em)bodied bliss (2013); Gaze (2010); and Tender Box, A Wunderkammer (2007). She is co-publisher and managing editor for Black Radish Books and publisher of Nous-zōt Press. A chapbook, thrown, text by j hastain with Reed’s collages, will be published spring 2016 by Smoking Glue Gun.