The Imperial Woodpecker, a species endemic to Mexico, is the largest bird in its kind in the world. Measuring between 22 and 23.5 in, wings ranging from 11 to 12 in, and an estimated weight of 24 oz, this bird also has a large and pointy crest. The most distinctive feature in males is the bright red coloring of the lower crest and neck. Believed to be extinct, the last recorded sighting was in Durango, Mexico, in 1957, however its distribution is currently unknown.
The legend tells that a long time ago, the Mayan people had lost their most prized source of food: Corn. Atziri - the Mayan word for this grain - was a local girl of 13, who had befriended a woodpecker. Every afternoon, this bird would accompany the girl while she walked to the temple where she prayed to the god K’u for the corn to return. One afternoon, the bird didn’t come to her, and she was so sad that she would not leave her home. After several days, the bird showed up on her windowsill, and it now had a bright red tuft on its head. Her friend, the woodpecker, had been away searching for corn, and it now led her up a hill, to the entrance of a cave. There, it pecked on a rock, and the god K’u appeared. The god told Atziri that the bird had in fact found corn, and when he had tried to help it in this search, he had cast a lightning bolt that hit the bird on the spot where it now had a luminous red crown. The bright red coloring would forever be the symbol of this heroic feat. This is the story of how this woodpecker got its red crest, and with the help of the god K’u, brought back corn and happiness to the Mayan people.