Laughing Owl

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Look at how handsome he is. This is another New Zealand bird. His cry sounded like “a series of dismal shrieks frequently repeated”,  or, alternately, as “a peculiar laughing cry, uttered with a descending scale of notes”. No one is really sure what happened to the Laughing Owl;  by the time European naturalists starting paying attention to it it was already in decline. Some say fewer Maori rats meant fewer owls. Others say new introduced predators took their toll; these owls seemed to have walked more than flown. They had disappeared by the early 20th Century, though like many extinct birds, there are people who say that there’s one or two hiding out there somewhere. Errol Fuller has this advice for Laughing Owl fans:

Anyone still believing in the Laughing Owl’s survival and hoping to find its last resting place, might do worse than learn to play the accordion… “It could always be brought from its lurking place in the rocks, after dusk, by the strains of an accordion. Soon after the music had commenced the bird would silently flit over and face the performer, and finally take up its station in the vicinity, and remain within easy hearing till it had ceased.”

There you have it: an accordion-loving owl. I’ve found my favorite extinct bird.

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