In July of 1863 Mark Twain wrote a letter to a local newspaper in which he said, “There was a report about town, last night, that Charles Strong, Esq. . . . had been shot and very effectually killed. I asked him about it in church this morning. He said there was no truth in the rumor.”
Nor, we are happy to report, was there any truth in the reports that Beck’s Petrel was extinct. An Israeli ornithologist interviewed several recently and took photos which conclusively establish that they are still with us. You can read two of the news accounts here and here.
Hadoram Shirhai, the ornithologist who took the photos of the Beck’s Petrels you see in this post, spent last summer in search of the birds. Here is a map of his travels as published by BirdLife International. (The photos are copyrighted by Mr. Shirhai. We use them here in order to comment on his successful sightings.)
This petrel, named for the ornithologist who identified one in the 1920’s, is closely related to a Tahitian petrel but are smaller. This is a Tahiti Petrel.
Petrels belong to the same family of birds as shearwaters and albatrosses; all of which remain missing on our life lists. Very few albatrosses fly over continents it seems. And now there is another bird to add which we’ve not yet seen.
But we’re not complaining. Although Beck’s Petrels are critically endangered — probably due to humanity’s introduction of rats to their breeding islands and atolls — reports of their extinction were exaggerations.