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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






Friday, March 13, 2009

 

-- One Person's View --

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The respondent I alluded to in yesterday's post is "an experienced birder, naturalist and field sketcher." I would go slightly beyond that to say that their experience and background makes them a keen and careful observer (both instinctively and analytically) of nature. I might also add that this individual is very open to the possibility of IBWO persistence if carefully examined evidence supports it.

This person quite summarily rules out Red-headed Woodpecker for the mystery bird (for reasons that have already been covered here), and that species is off the table for me as well at this point.
Viewing the photo-in-question, this person's "first impression" was of:

"a normally plumaged pileated woodpecker which happens to have its head turned directly away from, and its body rotated away from the viewer. It's peering around the trunk and its body is foreshortened, facing almost directly away from the viewer (i.e., its tail is pointing away to the left side of the picture.) I see no white secondaries; I see skylight where these might be imagined. The angle of white intersecting black on the bird's wing would be all wrong, even if the white area were its secondaries."

What follows are simply a few pertinent quotes I've extracted from emails exchanged:

"The white area... is much too large to be its secondaries, if you're taking into account the head, neck, and upper back proportions. Go back and look at the Singer Tract photos of nest exchange in IBWO's, and see how that white delta on a perched ivorybill is a small, compact triangle, not a huge parallelogram. The secondary section of a woodpecker's folded wing is not an enormous, tree-trunk obscuring parallelogram. It's a triangle."

"There's just no way the white spot below the bird's body is white secondaries. It's way too big a patch, and not in proportion to the body of the bird. It's sky, beneath a bird that's perched almost at a 90 degree angle to the vertical trunk."

"If that white area is secondaries, we've got an enormous, big-bodied bird with a teeny little head; i.e., with the proportions of a moa. What we've got, in my opinion, is a pileated woodpecker, foreshortened, perched almost crosswise on a tree, peering around the trunk and facing away. It's hanging out with the pileated in the foreground. Big hint as to its identity right there."

"If it's an ivory-bill, where are the white dorsal stripes, anyway? By any interpretation, that's a solid black back: pileated."

"There's just far too much that has to be explained away here. Again: Where's the dorsal stripe? Answer: Maybe it could be hidden. Maybe the bird's getting ready to fly and has its wing raised, hiding it. Well, then, where's the raised wing?"

"It's keeping company with a pileated; that fact alone argues for its identity."

"The neck of a pileated certainly looks like that when the head is turned away... Ditto on the big fluffy crest. [ and the writer notes that they know this from having held "a dead (not mounted) specimen" in their hand].

"I see nothing inconsistent with an ID of pileated woodpecker."

and as an afterthought they sent this along:

"You might add that there's no one out there who has greater hope and (yes) FAITH that the ivorybill still lives than I do, but I agree with [I've deleted name] in thinking that it's much too important a thing to shore up on shaky evidence. For me, that photo depicts a pair of pileated woodpeckers, working away within earshot and sight of each other, as they often do---not a pileated keeping company with an ivory-bill. Rare birds are rare, and the chance capture of an image of a vanishingly rare bird which also happens somehow to have no visible dorsal stripes (huh??) is millions of times less likely than the chance that it's a photo of a pair of pileated woodpeckers."

=> (In retrospect it strikes me that these quotes taken out of full context may sound a bit terse or hasty, and I can only ask the reader to trust my judgment that this is NOT a terse or hasty observer.) That they find this photo fairly clearcut and non-controversial with their trained eyes is noteworthy to me (perhaps some of the official reviewers did as well?). This individual has NO interest in being embroiled in the sort of verbal squabbling that takes place on a site like this, so they will not be responding back-and-forth-and-back-again to issues/questions raised about their take --- there is NO point in lobbing rejoinders in hope of a response (and I understand/respect their wishes in this regard). Simply take these thoughts for what they are worth to you and move on. I know there will be questions.
I heartily thank this individual for taking time out of a very busy schedule to even offer up their judgment for use and quotation here, and only wish others of their caliber and recognition would do the same.

Everyone knows this debate can go 'round and 'round forever, with the same points and counterpoints, unless more evidence comes forth.
Lastly, it may be worth noting that the #3 Mystery Bird is just one of Erdy's pieces of evidence, albeit the most-discussed piece.
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Comments:
Good analysis......but the white shield is different on every IBWO, check out the many specimens.

The bottem line is we need a better picture.

And that's coming soon.

Woody
 
Rare birds are rare, and the chance capture of an image of a vanishingly rare bird which also happens somehow to have no visible dorsal stripes (huh??) is millions of times less likely than the chance that it's a photo of a pair of pileated woodpeckers

Comments? In critical thinking these ideas are at least as important as attempting to interpret blurry photos. These ideas of probabilities should also be applied to any other claims that can't be independently verified. That includes all claims since the first half of the last century.
 
Like most non conclusive pieces of evidence regarding the existence of the IBWO, its just a tease. I was on the fence regarding the mystery bird but can now see the light that it makes perfect sense to be a PIWO.
 
They speak with such authority and yet they have no credibility when they post anonymously.

Intresting that the end of the word anonymously ends in mouse.

Love Mickey
 
Sorry, but that proposed posture for the bird seems, well, freakish. The thought that a Pileated could be lined up pointing directly in line with the camera in a way that completely hides the tail (as in a bird flying away) and yet the head and neck are somehow cocked up at a sharp angle so we see them just fine? That's is a much bigger "explaining away" stretch than a wing cocked a centimeter backwards to hide a dorsal stripe. I also can't figure what the bird is holding on to. If I mask out the apparent white shield to force my eyes to see what your reviewer sees, it seems to require the bird to be perched on a branch (or at least a branch stub) that would protrude out from the tree trunk, to the left, cutting more or less accros where we see the mass of black body. In the other frames with no bird present that space is clear air, only a few tiny twigs in the vicinity (which are actually much closer to the cmera than the tree trunk, complicating te size difference even more), certainly nothing that would support a Pileated in anything but a dangling position. If the bird is supposed to be hanging on to the trunk, it'd have to have itself propped way out from the trunk, without benefit of tail, in a really bizarre posture. Even if you hypothesize it has just launched into space initiating flight, the wings begin to open as soon as the legs shove off, yet those wings would have to be still held very tightly against the body. I'd really have to see a sketch to comprehend how this pose is supposed to work.

As for the size of the white shield, it is pretty clear that some of that "white" area is white, and some is green. It is viewed through the foreground blurred leaves. In particular, the part that appears to extend too far to the right is pretty green; I think this is a leaf. The evidence I see from my blink animations is that there is MORE light there than the vegetation accounts for, especially the part right where it borders the black (and one of the spots where it is the most white and no green) and just below there. How does your reviewer account for the extra white that appears below the bird that is not there in the previous or subsequent frames?

I also think if you try to compress a Pileated body into that small space, then the head gets drastically oversized. Already if you try to scale that bird so the body seems to match the Pileated (assuming the vertical posture most people have assumed) and put the two side-by-side, the red on the head looks awfully big (one of the things that has led people to suspect red-headed). If you use he tiny compact body, the head gets even bigger

About the neck stripes -- lots of people say "Oh sure I have seen a Pileated look like that"... But I have not see a photo or video that confirms this. Does the reviewer have a photo, preferably of a live bird with preened feathers, not a dead one, that shows a broad expanse of black down the back of the neck, many times wider than the bordering white stripe? when a Pileated's neck is extended (as in the foreground bird in the image), the black stripe is drawn out very thin, too; when it is retracted the white stripes are very wide.
 
Ought to add...

The fact that your reviewer wants to remain anonymous is not an issue for me; anonymous review is quite standard, allowing reviewers to freely express their honest beliefs. And believe me I know why most people would not want to subject themselves to being called incompetent pseudoscientific idiots in an online debate (I long ago lost count of how many times I have been called all of those things). What is troublesome, however, is that (at least as I read it), they are not interested in explaining, elaborating, answering questions, or in any other way responding to people who have explicit questions, problems, or disagreements with their conclusions. This rather substantially undermines the helpfulness of their contribution.
 
Measuring from the bottom tip of the white triangle (I don't see a parallelogram) to the top of the triangle and then to the shoulder, the white is about half of the length. I get the same proportion in both the birds in this photo:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/10/11815871_3a6522241d_o.jpg
 
As stated previously, much of this has been discussed previously and with all due respect to the anonymous expert, there are still several items they bring up that are irrelevant to the identification (or lack thereof) of this woodpecker.

The fact that it is in one frame of a series of photographs where the photographer was focused on a Pileated does not make the mystery woodpecker any more or less likely that it is a Pileated.

Much of the historical literature, including Tanner's observations on the Singer Tract indicated that the two species frequently were found together and pairs of each were found foraging on the same tree or in close proximity to each other at the same time. Cornell has a George Sutton painting actually depicting the close proximity of a pair of Ivory-bills and a foraging Pileated. The photographer to my knowledge did not detect this second bird at all during the sequence of photos taken, so there is no evidence that the two birds were associating with each other (they might have been, but no evidence of it). So this point is a wash.

Also a wash is the appearance of white where the secondaries ought to be along with a black "object" that would be correct for the location of an outer primary, very noticeable when viewing the loop of three photos that Bill Pulliam has provided to us.

As an aside the Mardsen Pileated photo on Researchers Forum is interesting and a second photo does show the "white object" appears to be a lighting artifact. However, Bill Pulliam's loop shows conclusively (in my opinion) that the white visible on the mystery woodpecker is not sky penetrating through the lower half of the woodpecker. However, it could be a lighting artifact, but that appears very unlikley given the sequence (though not excluded as a possibility).

Getting back to the expert opinion, their point is correct that the extent of white is more than would be expected on an Ivory-bill when the wings are folded tight against the body either while resting or passively foraging. However, if the bird is about to fly off or, as the expert suggests is peering around the tree truck the wing could also be extended in a way for balance that the visible white is consistent with what would be expected on an Ivory-bill (numerous mounted specimens of Ivory-bills with partially open wings to demonstrate this). The noticeable bend in the wing being pulled back (coincidentally covering the narrow white neck stripe which angles backwards, not forwards as would be true in Pileated) would also be consistent with the primaries and secondaries extending forward giving this kind of look.

I agree with the expert that there are too many unresolved issues to confirm Ivory-bill with just this one photo (no visible white back stripes, etc.), but none of these issues exclude the possibility of Ivory-bill either.

The problem many of us are clearly wrestling with is that the neck pattern (especially all the black on the neck with a very narrow white neck stripe) would exclude Pileated from consideration unless someone could come up with a photo of a Pileated that mimics this look. The expert does not address that other than they think it is fully consistent with how a normal Pileated can look. Perhaps, but there is no hard evidence we are presently aware of to support that impression.

Obviously, that alone does not make this bird an Ivory-bill, nor should anyone think that, but it does seem conceivable that it is. If someone can produce a photo of the neck pattern on a Pileated that matches this bird, then that would certainly bring the probability of this being a Pileated Woodpecker way, way up.
 
they are not interested in explaining, elaborating, answering questions, or in any other way responding to people who have explicit questions, problems, or disagreements with their conclusions.

Another broad generalization easily proven false. Sometimes anonymous posters don't answer what you want them to answer, sometimes they do. That applies to both Believers and Skeptics. You often don't respond to my points, either, one of them being that in blurry photos, if a black and white woodpecker looks more like an Ivory-bill than any other woodpecker it almost certainly is not an Ivory-bill. (see John Trapp's August 25 post) http://birdstuff.blogspot.com/2006_08_01_archive.html Note his concluding comment.

The bottem line is we need a better picture.

And that's coming soon.

Woody


Since you speak with such confidence, I will too; if you mean a good quality photo of a modern living Ivory-bill, you are wrong. We have seen that whether or not the bird is extant it has proven to be an impossible task for over half a century.

Intresting that the end of the word anonymously ends in mouse.

Actually, it doesn't.
 
The fact that it is in one frame of a series of photographs where the photographer was focused on a Pileated does not make the mystery woodpecker any more or less likely that it is a Pileated.

Of course it does. If a drake mallard is seen with another duck that might be either a black duck or a hen mallard, it's probably a mallard. There are countless photos of Pileateds together, and as far I know none have ever been taken of Ivory-bills and Pileateds together. If the blur is indeed a PIWO or an IBWO, the overwhelming odds are the mystery bird is a PIWO because birds of like species are more likely to be seen together.
 
Anon 11:56:

Um, sorry, but how am I supposed to know if I respond to your comments when you are just one of several/many/dozens?/who knows? anonymous participants here. I generally respond to all comments, questions, and criticisms that raise an actual matter; I don't respond when someone just says "well you are wrong" or "since the bird is extinct you must be wrong" with no other particulars about where I might have misinterpreted. I certainly don't respond to "this is a joke yer an idiot" comments, nor do I respond to the same matter every time it is brought up over and over after I have already given my views on the topic and nothing new has been added. Anyway, what you quoted from me was based on what was said in the original post:

they will not be responding back-and-forth-and-back-again to issues/questions raised about their take --- there is NO point in lobbing rejoinders in hope of a response (and I understand/respect their wishes in this regard). Simply take these thoughts for what they are worth to you and move on.

Sure sounded to me like a statement that the reviewer will not be participating in further discussion; and it is a little bit irksome to have the process of examining and critiquing their theories characterized as "lobbing rejoinders."
 
You didn't respond to the below and I didn't call you an idiot (and never have) and I've stuck with Anon.

...in blurry photos, if a black and white woodpecker looks more like an Ivory-bill than any other woodpecker it almost certainly is not an Ivory-bill. (see John Trapp's August 25 post) http://birdstuff.blogspot.com/2006_08_01_archive.html Note his concluding comment.

This is an actual matter. It is a key matter. Note that this point applies whether the bird is extremely rare or extinct and you just can't ignore it with Mystery Bird #3. However, I believe it is valid for me to say that that photo is too blurry to identify the species with any confidence (if it's a bird,) so I don't care to debate the matter as it's unresolvable.
 
Actually depending on where you are, a drake mallard seen with another duck could be just as likely to be a hen black duck as a hen mallard where mallards are genetically swamping out and replacing black ducks. But I understand your point.

The point I'm making is that there is no evidence that the two birds seen only once in one of twenty or so frames are associating with each other. They could be, but if they were would we not expect to see the second bird in more than one frame and the photographer noticing that there were two birds in the vicinity? I haven't seen the other frames, or the photographers notes, so may be there were two pileateds and we haven't been told about this.

Further, if an Ivory-bill is in the vicinity, the historical literature overall suggests that the two species were often found together, and at least sometimes foraging on the same tree, with little or no interaction between the two species. The point of "it's a Pileated because there is another Pileated in the vicinity" is irrelevent.

What is relevent is determining which features we can see eliminate consideration of which species. We have reasons to eliminate Red-headed Woodpecker from further consideration based on the features seen. We might have reasons to eliminate Pileated Woodpecker from further consideration, unless someone can find a picture of Pileated with a neck that looks like the mystery woodpecker. And there are many reasons suggesting this cannot be an Ivory-bill, but none of them actually eliminate that species from consideration.
 
Anon: I have to say, Huhh???

That is a post from 2.5 years ago, on a different blog. It was a 45 comment thread; 13 of those comments were written by me. I think I participated in that discussion quite actively, thank you. As I said then, statistics never provide a certainty of fact about any single observation. I also have not seen anyone here or elsewhere claim that this bird IS an Ivorybill. We're just discussing whether or not, and in what ways, we think it looks like an Ivorybill. I think it is you who is attempting to cast our discussion as something it is not: a claim of proof of the non-extinction of the species. And in fact I have an entire post on my own blog discussing the reasons why this photo will never be able to preclude the possibility of a Pileated Woodpecker, addressing the notion that it is preselected as being pro-Ivorybillish from an untold number of candidate images by an untold number of photographers, hence you can't really assess the unlikelihood of these various seemingly coinciding Ivorybillish features. A one-in-a-million shot is expected to happen about once in a million times, after all. Is that not in fact very close to agreement with the statement you made that you claim I have never addressed?

You also personalized my comment above about the single anonymous expert's declining to engage in discussion as somehow being about you, or about all anons. I was not talking about you or making any sort of generalization, which ought to have been clear from context. Unless, of course, you are the anonymous reviewer in question, which does not seem likely.

Can we drop this, please?
 
The un-woodpecker-like contortions some of you are postulating don't make avian sense to me. If it is a Pileated, which I think is quite possible, I think it's more likely a partially leucistic Pileated than a normal one. Remember that poor quality images often have INEXPLICABLE ARTIFACTS. I don't think either an Ivorybill or a Pileated can be excluded from the photo.
 
Indeed, I am not sure that a woodpecker with its body held horizontally is even anatomically capable of elevating its head and neck in the way that would be necessary. I'm not sure that the lower cervical vertebrae can be extended that much from their resting state, which is curved sharply forwards. If you look at pictures of horizontal Pileateds they seem to elevate their heads by retracting the neck, tightening the curve, pulling the head back into the shoulders with a hunchback look (similar to when they are in flight), then tipping the head upwards.
 
I am extremely suprised that no-one seems to think it worth commenting on that the bird was in a small area and occuring regularly - well at least around a full moon. So presumably it was seen well enough to suppose it was an Ivorybill. And yet there has been no documentation of the record put forward at all, aside from the photograph and more hopeless noises. It should have been observed by independent birders and easily confirmed. And now, presumably, it's not there anymore.

It's sure nice to have but we don't need an "expert's view" to tell us that a poor photo is subject to interpretation and that the bird is a PIWO, and more than likely paired with the other PIWO in the pic. Also, the 'white' is obviously the wrong size, shape and colour for an IBWO to boot.

The fact that this is really all we have is rather sad and pathetic even if we all knew it would happen.

The 'original' material could easily be put onto a file hosting site so that interested parties could view it in all its glory.
 
"It's keeping company with a pileated; that fact alone argues for its identity."

If so, such a "fact" would cast doubt on a large proportion of birds submitted to bird record committees in which the supposedly rare bird is keeping company with another species. For example, the fact that a small white goose with a stubby blackish bill is keeping company with Snow Geese argues for its identity as a Snow Goose.

Okay, geese are more social than large woodpeckers. I have occasionally seen what I thought were two different species of non-social woodpeckers on the same tree at the same time, but if this argument is valid I must have been mistaken, for the fact that any two woodpeckers are on nearby trees argues for their identity as the same species.
 
"It's keeping company with a pileated; that fact alone argues for its identity."

He is undoubtedly right.

There are 100 geese. You know the species of 99. All things being equal the 100th goose is likely the same species. A unique field mark would argue that it isn't. It's all about weighing probabilities.

I have occasionally seen what I thought were two different species of non-social woodpeckers on the same tree at the same time, but if this argument is valid I must have been mistaken, for the fact that any two woodpeckers are on nearby trees argues for their identity as the same species.

Again, it's about probabilities. It doesn't make you mistaken. It does make you more likely to be mistaken. It argues for the fact, it doesn't prove the fact. Big difference. But I suspect you weren't being serious.
 
There are 100 geese. You know the species of 99. All things being equal the 100th goose is likely the same species.

Actually, the last goose is usually the Ross's.

Two birds that are at least 90 feet apart, in different trees, giving no indication of interacting with each other, and not traveling together are not "associated."
 
Bill,

You are right in that I apparently misinterpreted your comment directed at someone else. You have directed similar comments at me before and it was a case of bias on my part.

I also have not seen anyone here or elsewhere claim that this bird IS an Ivorybill.

It sure sounds to me that there's people trying to say they think it's an Ivory-bill without actually coming out and saying it.

Do you think it's an Ivory-bill or not? Seems like a fair question.

Also, did you see on the researcher's forum the following?

Today, the person who posted that PIWO with the apparent white saddle on Flickr (which Marsden provided links to here on the forum) confirmed to me that it is indeed a photo of a PIWO that was altered to look like an IBWO, just for fun.
 
Maybe I've missed this, but did the initial group of reviewers have the "before" and "after" shots that Bill Pulliam included in his blink animation? (I'm wondering, CT, whether the expert opinion you've recounted benefitted from seeing the animation? s/he certainly does not address it.) I don't understand why the large area of skylight would be present in the one image and not in the others. I don't recall anyone putting forward another explanation for the large area of white.

Incidentally, a recent poster at IBWO.net indicated that the photographer of the "Marsden" Pileated (the image was apparently not taken by Marsden) was photoshopped.
 
Sorry, bad wording; the photographer admitted the image was photoshopped.
 
Two birds that are at least 90 feet apart, in different trees, giving no indication of interacting with each other, and not traveling together are not "associated."

I don't think there's nearly enough information to reach that conclusion.

From "On Watching Birds" ...the two [pair of pileateds] were seldom more than 40 yards apart as they worked on adjacent or nearly adjacent trees.

40 yards is 120 feet, and they were sometimes feeding farther apart than that. In my experience Pileateds in close proximity are usually traveling together.
 
Bill, anon from 2:22

How come 90ft?
How come a poor quality snapshot proves to you they are not interracting, associated or travelling together?

That's quite a judgement to make from the photograph, and could you answer some of the points I raised at 2:22?
 
7:12 yes I saw that, disappointing but also simplifying... and you may consider that it could appear that you are attempting to put words into people's mouths so that you can criticize them for them. I personally have said as plainly as I can say that this photo will never prove the existence of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, no matter what new revelations may come out about it. Indeed there could be new revelations about it that would cause me to withdraw any suggestions that it even might remotely have a chance that it shows an Ivorybill, such as new data on distances and sizes of birds. What I may privately believe on beyond what I chose to put forward in public is as irrelevant to a scientific discussion as my religion, politics, or tastes in art.

20 shots in all, Pileated in 20, other bird in 1, I think reviewers had access to them all but I wasn't there.

Not traveling together: one bird in small area on same tree the whole time (about 20 shots), other bird in separate tree for one shot, not seen before or after. Might as well have been a crow flying by.

Not interacting: ditto

But what does it even matter? I've seen Pileateds and Redbellies interacting on the same tree. Y'all have an amazing ability to fixate on what are really rather secondary issues like this.

90ft is the estimated distance between the birds.

Issues from 2:22, the moon thing is curious, wonder if it was even noticed until after the fact, I suspect it was spurious. A lot of these "detections" are single ambiguous reconyx images such as what you have seen posted, suggesting if the same bird is responsible for all of them it was a quick pass through. Not clear that all are even birds, much less the same bird. A bird traveling over a wide area, passing through a single spot only occasionally, is not easy to detect if you don't have the resources to keep people stationed there all the time. Given habitat degradation and fragmentation (which is universal throughout potential range) if species still exists it is only likely to do so by ranging widely (as was typical behavior even before habitat was fragmented). Etc. etc. These general ideas has all been widely discussed in many places for the last 5 years.

A reminder: this is not my bird, these are not my data, I just seem to be the only one who knows the details of it who cares to get down in the trenches. At some point I may get tired of all the questioning and wander off; I suggest you contact the original researchers if you still have questions.
 
and you may consider that it could appear that you are attempting to put words into people's mouths so that you can criticize them for them.

Or you could say I was asking straight out what you thought the indentity of the bird was and I didn't get an answer. That is your right, of course.

What I may privately believe on beyond what I chose to put forward in public is as irrelevant to a scientific discussion as my religion, politics, or tastes in art.

What a person privately believes about the existence of the Ivory-bill is highly relevant to the discussion. At least, as a skeptic, that's what I keep being told.

Not traveling together: one bird in small area on same tree the whole time (about 20 shots), other bird in separate tree for one shot, not seen before or after. Might as well have been a crow flying by.

If a person were filming one of two Pileated woodpeckers feeding together some distance apart, odds are only one bird would appear in any given frame.

In the Luneau video a black and white blob disappeared. That was good enough evidence for Cornell to be deemed a second Ivory-bill. A long shot multiplied by a much longer shot. A rather extreme example of drawing conclusions without enough information and one for which you are not responsible, needless to say.

But what does it even matter?

It matters in that too often Believers focus on the possibility of the exception rather than the probability of the norm. Like data-mining by digging through thousands of photos until a blurry one is found that could be interpreted to show an Ivory-bill field mark or two, then trying to have a serious debate on what will ultimately be unprovable. It's like bringing a case to trial with weak and inconclusive evidence and knowing it will result in a hung jury.
 
The analysis posted by the 'expert' is pretty much what several people have already said. Once you realise the body position, you see it for what is - a normal foreshortened PIWO with sky below the body giving the impression of 'white'. It isn't even unusual or contorted, at least to my eyes.

Talk of edge-effects and pixels etc is obfuscation - in my opinion. Once you're heading down the wrong track with an i.d. it can be very difficult to appreciate an alternative position (literally in this case!).
 
Anon: Skeptic/Believer terminology is an obfuscatory tool, allowing people (from any viewpoint) to lump an individual into a group and then criticize the individual for the imagined collective actions of the group, thereby avoiding having to address that one person individually. It springs from the same roots as racism and other forms of same/other tribalism. I find it never helpful, often extremely unhelpful, and I try to avoid using either the terminology or the tactics (but being human, I am sure I have slipped many times, and I trust you will now Google everything I have ever written and challenge me with something from 2005). Cornell's analysis of a video from 5 years ago in an entirely different place is an example; what on earth does that have to do with the topic at hand? We're not dealing with that video or anyone from Cornell.

Oh, but you skeptics are all alike, I forget, always trying to distract the argument with your pet issues and slander people with guilt by association. You all believe that Iraq really did have WMDs and that global warming is just a conspiracy to establish worldwide socialism. And you all want the Ivorybill to be extinct, because you hate nature, love industry, and are in the pockets of the hunting lobby.

Since I realize many people online are humor-challenged, let me point out that the immediately preceding paragraph is a SATIRE intended to demonstrate the irrelevance and unhelpfulness of debating via polarized labels. So please don't respond to it as though it were serious, OK?
 
To the point:

focus[ing] on the possibility of the exception rather than the probability of the norm.

You are WAY overstating the case here. The fact that I am looking at a Pileated might increase the odds that the next woodpecker I see will also be a Pileated a bit, maybe, I doubt you would have a very easy time demonstrating that statistically. It is HARDLY an "exception" to have two woodpeckers of different species near each other, it is HARDLY "the norm" that the next woodpecker you will see when you are looking at a Pileated will be another Pileated; in fact, in my experience it's usually a Redbelly. This argument that it somehow stretches credulity that two birds of different species could coincidentally wind up in the same camera frame is patently ridiculous. The presence of one Pileated doesn't somehow prove the likelihood of a second Pileated; Pileateds are common in these habitats; the likelihood of having one or two around is ALWAYS high. It's been admitted up front by all involved here that the a priori odds are overwhelmingly against this bird being an Ivorybill, even if it was the only bird in the frame, even if Steve had the camera deliberately pointed at it and was thinking "gosh, that looks like an Ivorybill" when he clicked the shutter. These weird arguments about "traveling together," "associated" etc. are spurious and irrelevant.

The dead horses are starting to pile up around here; until some new info comes in from the field (such as accurate ground-based measurements of the distances from the camera to the two trees in question) there's not likely to be much new of significance to say about this photo.
 
Bill, I do appreciate your stance on the photo and your reasonable treatment of others. However, you have also spouted some your own pet peeves and biases, particularly in using words and phrases like "intelligent design," "The Truth," "Jesus," and "Fundamentalist Principles." In essence, you are lumping a group of people with diverse viewpoints and beliefs into a single group that in your view typifies those who rely on flawed logic, and many find your use of these terms offensive. Ironically, many so-called ivorybill skeptics accuse you and other so-called ivorybill believers of this very same thinking. Moreover, in the contentious debate of intelligent design vs. evolution, plenty of people on both sides can be guilty of flawed logic; I'm sure that even you recognize this.

More to the point, the identity of the bird in question and arguments for or against it have absolutely nothing to do with one's religious or spiritual views. As you yourself lamented, there is no need to repeatedly mingle one's personal bias with a very simple evidentiary issue. It's inflammatory and irrelevant. Simply put, many people following the Ivorybill saga have no interest in debating logic associated with particular worldviews. Give it a rest.

Frankly, I appreciate the view that famed Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson put forth that religion and science, two of the world's most powerful forces, should unite and work together to save the world's creation. Rather than invest time and energy slinging mud at each other, we need to find points in common and work in a positive direction. We're all on spaceship Earth together.
 
"There's just no way the white spot below the bird's body is white secondaries. It's way too big a patch, and not in proportion to the body of the bird. It's sky, beneath a bird that's perched almost at a 90 degree angle to the vertical trunk."

The geometry of this argument is clearly wrong, and this is even more obvious than the problem with the geometry of Cornell's explanation of the first part of the Luneau video (as explained by Sibley et al.).
 
The appearance of this bird is SO diametrically different for different viewers, I'm beginning to wonder if it actually changes depending on which browser and what sort of screen (and settings) you are viewing it on!?
 
Cy --

It's a software issue: the software between the ears. It the idiosyncrasies of the human mind, not the computer gear.

2:01: If you check, you'll see those comments are generally directed at individual posters in response to individual statements they have made, not blanket dismissals of the way "skeptics act," Plus, of COURSE I use those sorts of charges because they are the same ones that have been levelled at me and others who decline to accept unquestioningly the Revealed Wisdom (oops there I go again) of Ivorybill Extinction. Turnabout, irony, sarcasm, call it what you like; that is kinda the point!
 
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