Anas laysanensis

Photograph credit: Michelle Reynolds, U.S. Geological Survey. Source:

Laysan Duck | Anas laysanensis

Aims: This work reminds us to carry the memory of that which we cannot personally remember, in our being, in our stories, in our culture. The ‘we’ here includes our non-human relatives.

Process: The work is a cross-stitched poem, above, accompanied by a cross-stitch of the above photograph of the hen with four ducklings. The photograph was taken by Michelle Reynolds for the US Geological Survey. The poem remembers some of the species that were lost when rabbits denuded the island of vegetation in the early 20th century.

Insights: The Laysan Duck is one of the good news stories of Precarious Birds, at least for now. There are several hundred ducks in three locations, and it may be downlisted to Endangered during this project. At the same time, the seas on the planet are rising, placing the Laysan Duck’s island homes in peril. Laysan Duck reminds us that life is resilient when given a chance.

Compelling stories: Many years ago I read a story of the last Laysan Duck hen, whose clutch of eggs was destroyed by a Bristle-thighed Curlew. The hen laid another clutch (her mate had already disappeared however she was pregnant with a second clutch), and the species was saved. The story is recounted here, with acknowledgment that it probably wasn’t true. Nonetheless, at one point the species was down to a dozen birds: on the precipice. The Laysan Duck embodies hope.

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