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Movie Review
A Living Legend
A documentary tells the story of a rare seabird and some of its champions.

A Bermuda petrel chick.

Louis Mowbray

Spying a Bermuda petrel isn’t easy. Even a trip to the island nation won’t guarantee it. A recent documentary, however, gives viewers a better sense of the real-life thrill of spotting one of the world’s most imperiled seabirds.

Afflare Films’ Rare Bird, an 81-minute film produced and directed by Lucinda Spurling, chronicles the petrel’s cryptic history, from its supposed extinction more than 300 years ago to its rediscovery in 1951 to its comeback in the new millennium.

Scenes of petrels (also called cahows) in their burrows, fluffy chicks, and the destruction wreaked by 2003’s Hurricane Fabian, as well as rare footage of a cahow in flight, will make an impression on viewers unfamiliar with the seabird and the obstacles facing its survival.

Audiences will also enjoy getting to know the heroic individuals determined to bolster the petrel population. Among them: David Wingate, the retired conservation warden who, as a 15-year-old with a singular penchant for birds, helped rediscover the cahow and made his goal to save it from true extinction; and Jeremy Madeiros, Bermuda’s current terrestrial conservation officer and the head of the petrel relocation project described in Rachel Dickinson’s article, “Seeking Higher Ground.”

The documentary ends on a hopeful note, suggesting that if the project is successful, what Wingate refers to as a “ghost bird” may continue to haunt Bermuda’s shores with its eerie call.

View Clips from Rare Bird

Clip #1: Bermuda petrel experts describe the cahow’s rediscovery.
Clip #2: A young cahow in the darkness of a burrow.
Clip #3: Rare footage of a cahow in flight.

1951: Louis Mowbray (left), curator of the Bermuda aquarium, and Robert Cushman Murphy, an ornithologist from the American Museum of Natural History, hold living proof of the cahow’s existence.
Louis Mowbray


David Wingate, in 1952.
David Wingate


David Wingate now.
Lucinda Spurling

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For more information on Rare Bird, click here
To contact Lucinda Spurling, click here
Click here for a population ecologist’s take on seabirds in Northern Scotland.

Feature story link to "Seeking Higher Ground"

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