Glen Chilton, Duck P.I.

The Curse of the Labrador Duck

Today we attended a lecture given at the Field Museum in Chicago by noted ornithologist Glen Chilton, who was speaking on his new book, The Curse of the Labrador Duck: My Obsessive Quest to the Edge of Extinction. Chilton has spent the last 10 years or so, on and off, chasing down the last remaining museum pieces, study skins and eggs of this duck that went extinct in the 1870’s. During his extremely entertaining lecture, he explained how he came to take on the project and shared a few of the adventures he had along the way to finding the 50-some birds and handful of remaining eggs that reside in museums (and other places) around the world.

Labrador Ducks
The Field Museum’s pair of Labrador Ducks

At the beginning of his talk, Dr. Chilton praised the Field Museum as one of the top 5 natural history museums in the world. Also among his top 5 is our old favorite, Naturalis, in our former hometown of Leiden (the mention of Leiden elicited a quiet “woo hoo” from your blogger). After the lecture Dr. Chilton signed his book and when it came our turn we mentioned our former time in Leiden. He again praised Naturalis and told us a bit more about the two Labrador Ducks that are in the museum’s possession.

Labrador Duck trading card
Circa 1970 trading card featuring the Labrador Duck

Chilton is pretty sure he tracked down all of the remaining examples of the Labrador Duck still in existence. He’s so sure that he’s offering a $10,000 reward for anyone that can produce a duck he didn’t manage to find (restrictions, of course, apply).

Reward for Labrador Duck
Reward for ‘new’ Labrador Duck

Dr. Chilton will be making more appearances for his book in the coming weeks, in Seattle, Denver and Portland (Portland Audubon Society), before returning to Australia. I highly recommend his lively and interesting lecture. I’ve read the first few chapters of the book and will post a review when I’m done (so far, thumbs up).

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