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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.

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"....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

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


-- Stalking The Ghost Bird --


Only recently acquired Professor Michael Steinberg's new volume, "Stalking the Ghost Bird," about the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana (buy here or here). Not finished with it, but will say a few things, since some emailers have asked about it:

The book is highly anecdotal, which both makes it interesting, but also easily dismissable by critics. But within those anecdotes it gives a little more of the flavor of the many Ivory-bill sightings which have occurred throughout the southeast over the years (even though it largely focuses on La.), but aren't always widely publicized. Indeed, several names, both professionals and average Joes, that are prominent in this book, aren't seen much or at all in some other Ivory-bill volumes (BTW, Mike Collins' work at the Pearl is not included in the book, for anyone wondering -- much of the book was probably written prior to Mike's efforts). The author and most of those he interviews clearly believe in the species' likely persistence. A nice, brief summary of major sighting claims across the south over the decades is given at book's end.

At a pricey $25 (or $17 Amazon) for a ~150 page book that focuses primarily on a single state it's hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend it to all (academic press publications tend to be pricey, and not sure why this couldn't have come out directly in paperback, and cheaper), but it does fill a different niche from other IBWO books and is an enjoyable read and relatively current... so hardcore 'true believers' may well want it (IBWO skeptics will view it as more-of-the-same)... or, if the species is finally confirmed in Louisiana ahead of all other states, then... yeah, it may get snapped off the shelves.

I finished reading this book recently, and will soon be posting a review on my blog. Suffice to say that I was quite disappointed with the anecdotal nature of the book and the repetitive nature of much of the material presented. I was hoping for something more scholarly and not quite so biased. As a skeptic, I found nothing in this book to change my opinions about the status of the IBWO.
Hi John, I totally agree, anyone wanting only to read scholarly, empirical material on this subject should take a pass on this book. But often people think that IBWO reports come in only once every 10-15 yrs., and areas they might reside in have been thoroughly searched. I think this volume helps get across the fact that since the 50s IBWO claims have trickled in far more regularly, every few years (by people acquainted with Pileateds), and the habitat of interest is vast and not thoroughly explored.
It's the contiguous United States. Trust me, it is thoroughly explored.

You can find something without looking for it. Bigfoot/Ivory-billed. The reason Believers hate that comparison so much is that it is so valid.
We simply disagree. It is NOT thoroughly explored, and even areas that have been thoroughly explored in the past, are not done so on a continual basis (lifeforms in areas change with time).
Most accept that the IBWO existed as recently as the 40s, no one has proven the existence of Bigfoot ever, so it isn't an apt analogy. You may as well compare the Coelacanth and Ivory-bill, or if you prefer, Beck's Petrel and IBWO; would make just as much or more sense.
California is in the contiguous United States. Mountaineers, climbers and backpackers explore the high mountains of California by the thousands each year, yet nobody managed to document a Wolverine for about 75 years until a few months ago.
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