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Imperial Dreams: Tracking the Imperial Woodpecker Through the Wild Sierra Madre
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Imperial Dreams: Tracking the Imperial Woodpecker Through the Wild Sierra Madre

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  93 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Naturalist Tim Gallagher journeys deep into the savagely beautiful Sierra Madre, home to rich wildlife and other natural treasures—and also to Mexican drug cartels—in a dangerous quest to locate the rarest bird in the world—the possibly extinct Imperial Woodpecker, the largest of all carpinteros. Explorer and noted bird expert Tim Gallagher is no stranger to the obsession ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Atria Books
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Sep 15, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sierra-madre, birds
I do a little birding on occasion; in the marshlands and the uplands of Northern California. At least six species of woodpecker frequent my neighborhood, which is a fairly substantial number when you consider species distribution throughout the United States. The smallest is the Downy Woodpecker, which will occasionally work at our fig tree, the largest is the Pileated - a gorgeous, large woodpecker. But even the Pileated pales in comparison to the grandeur of the Imperial, a one time resident o ...more
Steven Howes
Jul 15, 2013 Steven Howes rated it really liked it
I read the author's previous book "The Grail Bird" about the rediscovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in the SE United States in the 1990's and found it be fascinating. This offering was a similar book about the author's search for evidence of the existence of the Imperial Woodpecker, a large woodpecker related to the Ivory-Billed and native to high elevation pine forests of the Sierra Madre in Mexico.

In my opinion, this book is about much more than the Imperial Woodpecker. It is about old Mex
Rick Skwiot
Jun 24, 2013 Rick Skwiot rated it really liked it
For those of us who love birds and Mexico, Tim Gallagher’s “Imperial Dreams: Tracking the Imperial Woodpecker through the Wild Sierra Madre,” is a sobering book. It chronicles the willful destruction of habitat—both animal and human—in northwest Mexico by loggers, ranchers, drug gangs, corruption and ignorance. Editor in chief of the world famous Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s magazine “Living Bird,” Gallagher himself nearly becomes a dead duck in his quest to find an extant specimen of the once t ...more
David Bales
Sep 05, 2013 David Bales rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
This is a beautiful and heartbreaking book about ornithologists searching for the elusive imperial woodpecker, the world's largest species of woodpecker, (the male was up to 24 inches long with a flaming red crown) in the high pine forests and mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico. The last documented sighting of the imperial woodpecker was in 1956 but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the species existed in remote areas of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa until the 1990s. The ...more
Jeanne Fair
Apr 17, 2016 Jeanne Fair rated it it was amazing
A thorough documentation of the status of the Imperial Woodpecker told through the story of expeditions to find the last vestiges of the species. A depressing, but important story to know. The book is filled with my historical vignettes for the region of Northern Mexico.
Carrie Laben
Mar 04, 2014 Carrie Laben rated it liked it
Shelves: nature
Gallagher isn't much of a stylist, and this sometimes mars the book, which is in places poorly organized. However, the inherent drama of the subject matter and the author's clear love for the birds he's pursuing make this an overall worthwhile read.
Nov 06, 2014 Bob rated it really liked it
A well-told tale of tracking a rare bird into the Sierra Madre of Mexico,
Nov 29, 2013 Kerry rated it it was ok
Eh. Some history and geography can be learned, mostly in the first half of the book. Therefore that part is interesting. The second half is staccato bursts of what they did, where they went, who they showed their movie to. Not interesting and full of unnecessary details. One begins to think the 'sightings' people report, as in, "I saw that bird 40 years ago when I was 2 years old" (exaggeration for effect), are not accurate. To put it nicely. All that said, interesting to learn how some people l ...more
Top 5 Science and Nature - PLA
May 06, 2013 Jason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This book is a real-life story about a man on a quest to find a giant woodpecker. A bird that has thought to have been extinct for over 50 years. He travels to the back forest's of México; encountering everything on his journey from armed drug lords, burning houses, and more than one life or death situation. It is an amazing story of not giving up on your dream, no matter how hard that may be or who it may hurt. I loved the book, and it read like a novel.

* I won this book for free through the G
Feb 21, 2016 Curt rated it it was amazing
Aug 29, 2015 Amber rated it liked it
One of the bad things about Goodreads (there are much more good things of course) is that insensitive reviewer turds can give away the entire book in their reviews. And that's what happened with this one!

Overall though, beside that review, this is a fun book about a search for the possibly extinct Imperial Woodpecker in the Sierra Madre of Mexico, an extremely dangerous part of the country. I love the idea of a passionate pursuit of something, anything, all just for knowledge and love of pursui
Priscilla Melchior
May 03, 2013 Priscilla Melchior rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Want adventure? Want a single-minded quest for the truth regardless of consequences? Forget detective novels or war stories. Follow instead Tim Gallagher as he fights, cajoles, climbs, hikes and bullies (in the best possible sense) his way through incredible obstacles toward the elusive imperial woodpecker.

This is not a book just for birders. It's an adventure tale, pure and simple, a fun read!

I won a copy of this book by participating in the GoodReads First Reads program.
Thomas Stevenson
Jul 06, 2013 Thomas Stevenson rated it liked it
Having never heard of the Imperial Woodpecker, but knowing about the sighting of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, I was anxious to learn about this bird. In that sense the information is scant. Those who have seen the bird are mostly dead and since it was once common in the Sierra Madre Mountains they didn't really pay it much attention. So this is more of a travel story in rugged, probably very beautiful country now inhabited by drug lords.
The Owlery (Elizabeth)
Jan 16, 2015 The Owlery (Elizabeth) rated it really liked it
First I must say that I won this book in a goodreads giveaway and that I do not go birding! The author is at times witty and I can see his true love for the Imperial Woodpecker he is tracking and trying to find. It wasn't what I expected to read when he writes about the habitats being destroyed, it really opened my eyes to a whole other reason behind birding. Overall this book can be read and enjoyed by anyone bird lover or not!
Linda Sellevaag
May 19, 2014 Linda Sellevaag rated it really liked it
Interesting for its information on the imperial woodpecker and background on the history and current situation of life in the Sierra Madre.
Jul 16, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
Excellent book - part adventure story, part ornithological study. Truly enjoyed this description of the search for the possibly-extinct Imperial Woodpecker (a two-foot tall woodpecker!) in the mountains of northern Mexico. Good follow-up to a couple of books I've read about the search for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in the southern US.

Sound boring? Read them and see if you don't want to join an expedition.
Emily Crow
Aug 15, 2013 Emily Crow rated it really liked it
Gallagher is a great narrator. His description of searching for the likely-extinct imperial woodpecker through the dangerous Sierra Madre Occidental was vivid. He also provided some good background on earlier explorers to the area. Ultimately, it was a rather melancholy story, as the beautiful habitat is being destroyed, and the people live under such difficult conditions.
Mark Rough
Oct 06, 2013 Mark Rough rated it liked it
I liked this book a lot, but it lacked the impact that The Grail Bird had. Though there's a real sense of danger in this book, there doesn't seem a reason for Gallagher to keep going. In The Grail Bird, there's suspense and controversy and mystery. There is no sense of possibility in this book.
Mes Valatie
Jul 14, 2013 Mes Valatie rated it really liked it
Amazing story of courage and obsession to find the Imperial Woodpecker of the Sierra Madre. The account if how the drug cartels have taken over this wilderness and clear cut it is heart breaking but even scarier and sadder for the numberless Mexicans who are killed in the process
Kristen Gage
Mar 02, 2014 Kristen Gage rated it really liked it
I read this after The Grail Bird and it grounded me back to reality. TGB was exciting and satisfying, Imperial Dreams reminded me why I enjoy this type of reading from the safety of my couch. ID is educational, exciting and sobering as well.
Sep 20, 2013 Sandra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
In search of the possibly extinct Imperial Woodpecker, encounters dangerous drug traffickers.
Apr 27, 2013 Meghan rated it liked it
I'm a sucker for stories of possibly-not-extinct giant woodpeckers.
May 04, 2013 Laurie rated it it was amazing
browser review running soon.....
Lydia Tomlinson
Lydia Tomlinson marked it as to-read
May 29, 2016
Grayson is currently reading it
May 23, 2016
Kristal Cooper
Kristal Cooper marked it as to-read
May 08, 2016
Ness Greenough
Ness Greenough marked it as to-read
Apr 28, 2016
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Best known for being one of the rediscoverers of the ivory-billed woodpecker (which was believed to be extinct since the 1940s) and writing THE GRAIL BIRD, author Tim Gallagher has another passion that has driven him since childhood -- the ancient sport of falconry. Gallagher's most recent adventure -- detailed in his new book, FALCON FEVER -- was to follow in the footsteps of 13th-century Emperor ...more
More about Tim Gallagher...

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