Sad Anniversary, September 4, 1963

The date was September 4, 1963. I was two months shy of my second birthday. So in my little world, the most profound events involved soiling myself and chugging baby root beers at the A&W Drive-In.

But on the island nation of Barbados, something much more grave occurred. A hunter shot and killed an Eskimo Curlew. Aside from the abominable act of shooting migrant shorebirds (which still occurs every year on Barbados), this incident is especially noteworthy, as it marks the last instance when we had physical evidence that Eskimo Curlews still existed.

Once one of the most common species of shorebird, Eskimo Curlews were a favorite target of market hunters in the latter half of the 19th Century (Passenger Pigeons had already been effectively eliminated). By 1900, the large flocks were gone. A few scattered birds persisted into the mid-20th Century. Reports of Eskimo Curlew sightings still trickle in occasionally. But since that fateful day in Barbados, there has not been a single specimen or photograph that proves the species still exists.

There is very little hope that any Eskimo Curlews remain. I cling to that hope, at least on some level.

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