Until early last year, the ivory-billed woodpecker was presumed extinctthere hadn't been a confirmed sighting of the 20-inch-tall bird, once common in the southeastern United States, since 1944. But in April, after a yearlong hunt involving sophisticated remote sound-recording technology and plenty of neck craning, ornithologists announced that at least one male ivory-bill was indeed living in the Big Woods of Arkansas. Jason Daley recently caught up with the lone woody, who gave his first exclusive interview to Outside.
Sixty years is a long time. Where have you been?
I started out hunting poachers in the African bush. Back then they were taking ivory from elephants and walruses. Ivory, ivorybillit was only logical to think I was next. I formed a paramilitary groupthe Ivory Wingand we took out hunting camps in Tanzania. We did some good. But so much deathsomewhere along the way I lost myself.
How did you elude being spotted for so long?
After Africa, I painted my bill black and drifted around Asia with a bunch of magpies. I started practicing Zen, settled my mind a bit, invested in a chain of fast-food chicken restaurants in Beijing. But, c'mon, it's not like I was holed up with Osamayou four-eyed birders couldn't find Heckle and Jeckle if they were crapping on the president.
Why come home now?
I really like the direction America's heading. Market reform, deregulationa 'pecker can make a killing in a business environment like this. For the U.S. launch of Cap'n 'Pecker's Crispy Chicken Pagoda, I'll be releasing a cover of "Ebony and Ivory" with Usher and touring with Jared, the Subway guy.
Any plans now that you're no longer extinct?
I think I'll run for national symbol. Just look at my beakit's freakin' majestic. The bald eagle? Give me a break. That guy's a scavengeris he even endangered anymore?
What about little 'peckersany in the cards?
Hey, if you know where I can find me a lady 'pecker, do share. It's been a long time since I banged anything besides a tree.