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I read this about 3-4 years ago, I think, in the 2015-2018 timeframe, as the first story in a collection, in English. I don't remember what the other stories were about. I forget exactly how the researcher comes to this information, maybe through an old photograph where he spots the dodo in the background, long after when they were considered extinct, but there's a farm which has a flock of "ugly chickens" which apparently were the result of an ancestor receiving a few dodos that they've been breeding. By the time he gets the evidence, I think that group of dodos are all dead, although he finds their bones, which prove that they survived for some time. I think he does locate one last living dodo (I think it might have been with a spinster, who was difficult to track down because she'd changed her name), but of course, it's not enough to actually save the bird. Nonetheless, he feels satisfied for having chased this dodo down this far.

He might have been a journalist rather than a researcher. I have vague memories of him wiring for money to continue his pursuit, with the prize being either the proof of the dodo's survival for research, or for a news story. I think there was also a bit of narrative going on with the family with the dodos seeing them as a sign of their misfortune, maybe resulting in their demise when they're poisoned or otherwise killed to get the figurative albatross off their necks.

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    I've waited years for someone to ask about this story, but darnint, you answered it yourself.
    – Spencer
    Aug 27, 2021 at 21:50
  • It is a rather singular story... I was glad to read it.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 28, 2021 at 1:02

2 Answers 2

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And... found it. "The Ugly Chickens" by Howard Waldrop

I was idly leafing through Greenway's Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World. The city bus was winding its way through the ritzy neighborhoods of Austin, stopping to let off the chicanas, black women, and Vietnamese who tended the kitchens and gardens of the rich.

"I haven't seen any of those ugly chickens in a long time," said a voice close by.

...

"I used to live near some folks who raised them when I was a girl," she said. She pointed.

I looked down at the page my book was open to.

What I should have said was: "That is quite impossible, madam. This is a drawing of an extinct bird of the island of Mauritius. It is perhaps the most famous dead bird in the world. Maybe you are mistaking this drawing for that of some rare Asiatic turkey, peafowl, or pheasant. I am sorry, but you are mistaken."

And indeed, he was too late.

And five huge birds—twice as big as turkeys, legs capped like for Thanksgiving, drumsticks the size of Schwarzenegger's biceps, whole-roasted, lying on their backs on platters large as cocktail tables.

The people in the crowd sure look hungry.

"We ate for days," said Alma.

· · · · ·

I already have the title for the Scientific American article. It's going to be called "The Dodo Is Still Dead."

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FuzzyBoots definitely has answered his own question; but for the sake of partial matches to the question of extinct bird populations being found, I can think of two other stories that are partial matches to this:

  1. Robert W Chambers' short story "Harbor Master", subsequently turned, with other, stories into the novel "In Search of the Unknown". Read it here on Project Gutenberg. In this story a breeding pair of Great Awk is captured by a person living at a remote site, who then sends a letter about the birds to the Bronx Zoo (New York) who send someone out to collect them. The birds escape capture under the influence of a mysterious creature called the "Harbor Master" which attacks the protagonists. The story has a bit of a "Lovecraftian" feel to it.

  2. Gerald Durrell's "The Mockery Bird". In this humorous story an island nation is gaining independence and transitioning to self-governance. The native peoples are divided into two groups, one of which worship an extinct bird. To assist the governance transition process, the main protagonist arrives on the island to find that the islanders plan to build some infrastructure, including a large hydro-electric dam in a remote valley. The protagonist visits the largely unexplored valley and discovers a population of the "extinct" bird, which, as it turns out is intimately connected to the life-cycle of the islands main export crop. The story is loosely based on the re-discovery of Takahē in New Zealand, including the colouration of the bird and some of its behaviours.

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