"....The truth is out there."
-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Sunday, August 14, 2005
'Deep swamp, bottomland hardwood forest' -- this is the description most folks, including experts, voice for ideal Ivory-bill habitat; the sort of place we've long been told to search for the species.
Yet, in the late 80's after locating the species in Cuba in UPLAND PINE FOREST, Les Short (a premier Ivory-bill expert), concluded that the NATURAL HABITAT for Ivory-bills was indeed PINES (as the bird had ALWAYS inhabited in Cuba and so too it's close cousin, the Imperial Woodpecker, inhabited in Mexico). Short hypothesized that centuries ago in N. America the Ivory-bill would have been found routinely in pine forest, and only after early white settlers decimated the pines did the species move to the bottomland swamp hardwoods with which it is now associated (and where it competes more directly with Pileateds), but this was never it's ideal.
One can't help but wonder if by now there might be some 2nd or 3rd growth pine expanses adequate to attract a few IBWO individuals if Short was right about their innate preference. Yet any birder who wandered out of pines in the last 5 decades and informed local 'experts' that he/she had just seen an Ivory-billed Woodpecker would've been summarily dismissed as crazed and un-credible.
In short, searching out only bottomland hardwood forest for remnants of this species may prove overly-limiting. That this bird needs large tree tracts and remoteness from humans seems clear, but beyond that I'm not convinced it is nearly as 'specialized' as the standard literature would have one believe. Ju-u-u-ust possibly, there is much MORE habitat out there in need of searching than even most wide-eyed optimists imagine!... The only thing certain about the Ivory-bill, is that we are still largely ignorant of its ways, and especially of exactly what the heck it's been up to for lo the last 60 years!! (Tim Barksdale, a search team member, makes some of these same points and more in an interesting, old, May post at another blog.)