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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

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


-- Or Perhaps Not --

"Perhaps we can dismiss the photographs that George Lowery presented to the ornithological community. Perhaps we can dismiss the sightings reported by Whitney Eastman. Perhaps we can dismiss the sightings by John Dennis. Perhaps we can explain away the Dennis' tape recordings that were analyzed by Hardy (1975). Maybe there is a miniscule chance that the recording made by Reynard (Reynard and Garrido 1989) isn't an Ivory-bill. Perhaps we can dismiss the response to tape recordings that were heard by Robert Manns, Malcolm Hodges, and myself or the birds heard by Fred Sibley and Ted Davis. But the list goes on and on --- right up to the present. If each of these observations has any probability at all of having been real, these probabilities add up. It is unlikely that all of these reports are misidentifications."

--- Jerome Jackson, reporting to US Fish & Wildlife in 1989 on the likelihood that the Ivory-bill was still extant

Perhaps John Terres, and Agey/Heinzmann, and Garratt, and Kulivan, and Gallagher/Harrison/Cornell, and Hill/Hicks/Rolek, and 100's of others, all got it wrong; each and every one of them.

....and perhaps, the moon is made of green cheese.

Cavities, sightings, 'sound detections,' update:



Hello CT: JJ doesn't seem to be consistant at times....this all or nothing as far as levels of proof is ridiculous.

There was an excellent article on this written a few months ago.


We would like to know what were the odds calculated on 12/23/06 that on 12/24/06 all three people in AU's camp would report strong field evidence and a robust sighting of a female IBWO if there are IBWOs and of there are no IBWOs?

Same question for each of the days over the next two months?

despite his pointed criticisms of Cornell, I think JJ has been more consistent than many, or than he gets credit for... in Nov. 1999 he wrote (private comm.) "There is no basis for declaring the species [IBWOs] extinct," and there has NEVER been any solid scientific basis for declaring it such -- NONE; just speculation piled upon speculation, based largely on the unchallenged (and often unverified) surmises and assumptions of a lowly grad student (don't we all wish our graduate work had been reviewed so uncritically); all the while sightings were being reported decade after decade after decade...
Hello All: I see consistantcy in his (JJs) stance requiring proof for extinction and proof for calling the species extant.

But then he has inconsistancies.

In Cuba some brief glimpses were probably or definitely IBWO (note it is possibly a different species than IBWO in Cuba per recnt study). Todays literature, birding culture and scientists treat it as a given that the bird existed into the late 80s in Cuba.

A similar set of evidence for US birds, actually nuch more evidence was/is not treated in the same manner here in the US. It was/is savagely critisized by some, even though the detail of the sightings are similar or better here (some robust), the US sightings are more numerous, there was an order of magnitude more audio evidence here, AU had bark adhesion data and some dichotomous roost data.

Also there are degrees to proof..... as JJ pointed out all these single observations...pretty much starts statistically putting crushing weight on the extinction and your all wrong in your sighting explanation. At some point you can overwhelming evidance that approaches but falls a fraction short of absolute, 100% proof.

Just because there a tough (not impossible) to interpret video doesn't mean tarnish all the other evidence that certainly amounts to much more than is mysteriously enough in Cuba.

Thats where JJ and many others are inconsistant.

Cuba was good enough but in the US with more data we suddenly reverted back to the need for 100% proof via photo. Now forty sightings, 30 eyewitnesses aren't enough even though its 4 times the witnesses in Cuba.

Strange double standard that they drove at us while hiding behind many (not all) ambiguous frames of the video.

well thanks and keep up the good literature finds! those in the field keep up the great work!
I won't debate your points above; my only meaning by JJ's 'consistency' is simply that he has ALWAYS said the bird could likely still be out there, unlike others who have changed with the prevailing winds of opinion: the bird is extinct; oh maybe not; the bird is extinct; oh maybe not; the bird... never demonstrating any real conviction nor understanding of the evidence that was always there.
The word proof should have been banished from scientific discussions from the very beginning, along with the useless word definitive. Many people throw these words around with only the vaguest notion of what they mean. Notice that while Dr. Hill considers a clear photo "proof," his actual criterion for publishing ivory-bill imagery coming out of his study is CONSENSUS. Photographic evidence is subject to the same degrees of uncertainty as everything else. Proof, as I have said before, is for mathematicians and logicians. It consists of a series of deductions that inevitably follow from premises. That is not science. Science consists of inferences and interpretations. Scientific "truth" is provisional and built on consensus. Notice that Dr. Hill has not even spelled out his precise criteria for consensus in this case. Every time the word proof pops up, scientists end up falling back to uncertainty, because that is the nature of so-called scientific proof. What happens if the Auburn people produce what they consider "clear" imagery, and it is given a thumbs up by Jackson and a thumbs down by others? What if a series of images are obtained that everyone agrees are ivory-bill, but only after they have been lightened? More than one person has argued that if any processing of an image is required for identification, the ID should be rejected. I think many people have some idea that photographic evidence is an automatic all-or-nothing. It is anything but. Surely Dr. Fitzpatrick must understand now that his description of the Luneau video as proof was a mistake. From the beginning, ornithologists should have been using terminology that reflects a continuum of uncertainty in interpretation, such as ambiguous, suggestive, tantalizing, compelling, and conclusive. Russ Charif used such language in his AOU presentation, and now Cornell uses a ranking system for assessing audio evidence.

I hope that photographic evidence will be as clear as possible as early as possible. But I fear that in the short term it will be less than stellar and there will be an even greater impasse in ornithology than currently exists. The threshold for action is not and has never been certainty. Where I fault Jackson is his implication that if we do not have "proof," again undefined, we are not basing management decisions on good science. Good science consists of finding the best hypothesis that explains the data, and that is always subject to uncertainty. It is highly unlikely that we are going to get "killer" images, or even "clear" images of ivory-bills in every area that they occur. We are probably going to have to use indirect evidence to assess their numbers and distribution. That should not stop us from taking action.
I agree with almost all of the points that you two have above and the article that I had never seen.

I have always wondered if the following analogy is a good one to show a flaw in the logic of the way we judge evidence .

If there are one hundred thousand hard core birders out there and we all have good to excellent looks at an IBWO but no pictures or proof for the other less hard core 900,000 people do those 900,000 have a point when saying hey there is not 100% proof? Its all putative.

tks all
Quick note: Remember, there are NO pileateds in Cuba. It is much more difficult to mis -id an IBWO there.
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