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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.

Web ivorybills.blogspot.com

"....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.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

Saturday, October 08, 2005


-- Over the Years, Sightings Galore??? --

People often don't realize how many sightings of Ivory-bills have been turned in over the decades. Some folks have the impression there are but a couple of unverified reports over the last 60 years and that's it (...no wonder they buy into a notion of IBWO extinction). Most IBWO literature mentions at most just a couple dozen Ivory-bill claims since the mid-40's that have some credibility, but the actual number of reports in that time (that could not be quickly dismissed as hoaxes or mis-identifications) are many times that number -- only the MOST credible ones make their way into the literature. On-the-other-hand, so far as I'm aware the Ivory-bill's contemporary, the Passenger Pigeon, has had virtually no credible reports since the 1930's (indeed few since it's supposed extinction in 1914), while reports of Ivory-bills are a regular occurrence during that time.
If mistaken identifications are such a common occurrence one must wonder why have there not been dozens of reports of Passenger Pigeons over the decades, a species with a far wider-ranging habitat than the IBWO and one that could easily be confused with various other birds given a quick glance? Yet P. Pigeon sightings lie dormant while IBWOs show up again and again and again...

BUUUT... what has always intrigued this writer most is NOT the many IBWO sightings turned in over time, but the likely dozens more sightings NEVER turned in at all. They fall into the following categories:

1. Birders who believe they have seen Ivory-bills but never reported it for fear of the scoffing, jeering, or intimidation they would face.

2. Birders who believe they have seen Ivory-bills (might even have photographic proof), but who believe it UNethical to report such a finding, for fear of the potential havoc brought upon the birds.

3. Birders who have had fleeting 'low-qualiity' glances at big black-and-white woodpeckers in woods and automatically shrugged it off as Pileateds, when in fact they had observed IBWOs.

4. Hunters, fisherman, backwoodsmen, who have seen IBWOs, but didn't have a clue what they were seeing (nor care) and so never reported it.

5. Hunters, fishermen, etc. who have seen IBWOs, and knew EXACTLY what they were seeing, and deliberately chose NOT to report it for fear of Government intervention and tight regulation of the land involved.

My guess is we would be stunned if we knew the actual number of human-Ivorybill encounters in the last 60 years, and it would leave little doubt but that the species survives today in remote corners of the American Southeast.
Has any other bird species EVER generated so many reports over a 60-year period and still been written off as extinct by so many? I doubt it.

Excellent commentary.

Thanks for this websight, and your optimism lifts my spirits and reinforces my feeling that the Ghost bird still carries on out there.

I spend a fair amount of time in the Southern woods and I expect to be able to place myself in category #2 one day.
Here's hoping your expectation is met one day, in which case, in category 2, I suspect you'll be with some fine company (although hopefully the categories will be a moot point by then!).
Clearly you've done a lot of research into the topic and you've also put a lot of thought into it. I referenced your 5 categories in a post about the IBWO. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this riveting topic.
totally moot being it was 25 years ago, but im convinced i saw a male ibwo in south santa rosa county around 1990. if only we had iphones in those days.
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