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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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Sunday, December 13, 2009


-- "Ghost Bird" Director Interviewed --


9-minute interview with Scott Crocker, director of "Ghost Bird":

...and here a momentarily-captive Pileated Woodpecker (juvenile??) making a call unusual for them:

Red mustache and full-sized bright red crest = adult male Pileated.
Spectrographically/harmonically those calls are pretty much identical to the Singer Tract "kents:" Base tone about 600 Hz and 5 or 6 simple overtones at 600 Hz intervals giving the "ladder." The timing is different but the quality is almost identical. This is a very simple kind of sound that can be made by many different animals and mechanical sources. More evidence that those who still insist that Ivorybill vocalizations are "unmistakable" are mistaken.
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Very interesting. It's probably a good idea to add that this particular bird's vocalizations don't actually sound like the Singer Tract kents, in case some reader is not familiar with that recording.

There is a nice summary of Patti Newell's research on Foraging Behavior of Pileated Woodpeckers, etc. at this link:

Actually, to my ears, parts of that distress call sequence have an identical vocal quality to the Singer Tract recordings. The pattern is different, but the quality is the same. If you took a 0.1s sample of one of the "flat tone" parts of the screeches I think you'd have a hard time distinguishing it from an Ivorybill. The point is that a Pileated CAN make an almost identical quality sound under some circumstances. So will a tree branch. Context, judgement, and large-scale pattern are very important here.
This sequence heard in SIMILAR quality by a human in the woods and called as Ivory-bill would be a very bad call. So another point is that someone unfamiliar with the Singer tract recording might think otherwise based solely in reliance upon your original post.

I really don't hear the same "toot" quality in this bird's squawks as I do in the Singer tract kents. But yes I can imagine it could get confusing with a 0.1s clip, or due to various field conditions accompanying a longer sequence.
Here's an interesting "tone deaf" test:

thanks for the technical analysis Bill; yeah, I put this up because to my ear the sounds had a similar "quality"/tone to IBWO kents, although I'm rather amazed that the similarity holds up under spectrographic analysis!
And I certainly agree with B.Benish that this particular sound wouldn't be confused with kents during a search, but of course the question is what variations on this sound might a PIWO make under some given context... folks may want to listen to these further YouTube clips which claim to be the mating call for PIWO:



(Also, here's a YouTube clip showing the flashing of PIWO wings around a tree trunk that may be interesting to some (I don't actually gain anything from it):


BTW, while the bird in the original clip has adult markings, my questioning of it's age had to do with it's size relative to the human hands (just seems a tad smallish) and the high-pitched voice (reminiscent of youngish birds), though either of these may be explained by the circumstances.
For any who might be interested I found a Web copy of Patti Newell's thesis (referenced by Benish above) on PIWO foraging behavior here:

I found this interesting, for what it's worth. The pileated in this YouTube video seems to mimic exactly the knocks it's given on the window, even matching the timing. Is that surprising?

Maybe this tag works better:

Thanks for passing this along; I'll turn the clip into a separate post, as the behavior is interesting and worth others' attention.
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