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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

Sunday, May 30, 2010


-- Young Choctawhatchee Searchers --


Teens trying to accomplish what adults have not (and asking for your help with equipment in the process):


Their website program here:


...and the homepage for "Change Agents":


Thursday, May 27, 2010


-- To Look Forward To --


New book on James Tanner due in the fall:


Saturday, May 22, 2010


-- Incredulous --


The vast majority of readers here no doubt know the Mason Spencer story which, in a sense, initiated the whole modern-day Ivory-bill saga back in Louisiana in April 1932, but for the few who may not, always worth a re-telling. The following version comes from Tim Gallagher's "The Grail Bird":
"The next time the ivory-bill reared its beautiful head was in the early 1930s, in a huge tract of virgin timber along Louisiana's Tensas River. Mason Spencer, a country lawyer and state legislator from the wilds of northeastern Louisiana, was visiting the director of the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at his headquarters in Baton Rouge. At one point the director asked him how the moonshine was in his area. "One of our game wardens must be drinking it," he said, "because he says he sees ivory-bills there."
""He's right. I've seen them myself," replied Spencer.
Incredulous, the director drew up a collecting permit for Spencer and challenged him to prove it. A short time later, Spencer came back with a freshly shot male ivory-bill and, as legend has it, flung it down on the director's desk."

In modern-day parlance, "DOH!!"

[ Word of the incident filtered back to Arthur Allen at Cornell, and three years later the famous Singer Tract expedition was launched. ]

So began the ornithological story that refuses to die...

Monday, May 17, 2010


-- Quote, Unquote --


Repeating once again just a few of the passages from Tanner's classic monograph on Ivory-billed Woodpeckers:

"The chief difficulty of the study has been that of drawing conclusions from relatively few observations, necessary because of the extreme scarcity of the bird. My own observations of the birds have been entirely confined to a few individuals in one part of Louisiana... the conclusions drawn from them will not necessarily apply to the species as it once was nor to individuals living in other areas. The difficulty of finding the birds, even when their whereabouts was known, also limited the number of observations. Especially was this true in the non-breeding season. With these considerations in mind, one must draw conclusions carefully and with reservations."

"The dominance of cypress in the bird's [Florida] habitat is a condition not found outside of the Florida region. Another difference is that Ivory-bills in Florida frequently fed in the pine woods bordering the swamps, something that has never been recorded in the region of the Mississippi Delta and only rarely elsewhere."

"There is no one type of forest that is the habitat of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker; it varies greatly in different sections of the bird's range."

"One condition is characteristic of all Ivory-bill habitats, namely, that other species of woodpeckers are common or abundant in those places."

"Hunting for localities where Ivory-bills were, and in those localities trying to find the birds, was like searching for an animated needle in a haystack."

"Winter and early spring are the only good seasons for investigating Ivory-bill habitats. Leaves are then off the trees, allowing good visibility and hearing, the birds are quite active and noisy, and the cooler weather makes work in the woods pleasant. Work in the summer is practically a waste of time because of the dense vegetation, silent birds, and depressing heat."

"Ivory-bill sign shows as bare places on recently dead limbs and trees, where the bark has been scaled off clean for a considerable extent. Pileateds do some scaling too, but it is usually confined to smaller limbs and to those longer dead. Freshness of sign can be judged by any appearance of weathering, which will soon turn bare wood a grayish color. Extensive scaling of the bark from a tree which has died so recently that the bark is still tight, with a brownish or reddish color to the exposed wood showing that the work is fresh, is one good indication of the presence of Ivory-bills."

"All the Ivory-bills that I have ever seen I located first by hearing them call and then going to them."

"Considering the maximum abundance of the Ivory-bill to have been one pair per six square miles, of the Pileated to be six pairs per one square mile, and of the Red-bellied to be twenty-one pairs per one square mile, the relative abundance of these birds would be one Ivory-bill to thirty-six Pileated to 126 Red-bellied Woodpeckers."

"Considering all the evidence, I believe that Ivory-bills were not sedentary birds, but sometimes wandered considerable distances....
Furthermore, the Ivory-bill is well adapted to traveling for long distances. It is a strong flier with a fast flight for a woodpecker, and individuals have been observed feeding over several square miles."

"Ivory-billed Woodpeckers usually travel in pairs; at least that is the number most often observed. Single individuals seen are usually unmated birds."

"Ivory-bills probably stay paired throughout the year and mate for life... No matter what season of the year, Ivory-bills have almost always been observed in pairs, indicating that they do not separate during the non-breeding season."

"The Ivory-bill's habit of feeding and living almost its whole life in and near the tops of trees makes it very unlikely that any mammal could prey on one."

"There is further evidence that food is the decisive or 'limiting' factor for Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Several times in various parts of Florida many trees have been killed by fire, storms, or other causes. Ivory-bills have appeared in these places and fed upon these trees as long as the borers beneath the bark were common, and then they have disappeared, moved elsewhere."

"The flight of the Ivory-bill... is strong and usually direct, with steady wing-beats. They can take flight quickly either from a perch or from a hole, springing into the air with very little descent before getting up to speed. They often fly above the tree tops, dodging the trees with very little deviation from their course. In the thick woods it is ordinarily difficult to tell how far the Ivory-bills fly, but I am quite sure that their flight is often extended for half a mile or more."

"Ivory-bills are not social or gregarious birds; they have apparently always lived in solitary pairs, and as long as the birds can mate, they are capable of reproduction and increase. With small numbers, inbreeding could occur, but there is no evidence that this would be harmful. Large numbers are not necessary for the continued existence of the Ivory-bill."

"When the food supply is sufficient, the woodpecker is probably resident or sedentary, with a feeding range from three to four miles across. There is considerable evidence that pairs or individuals sometimes move long distances in search of forests supplying an adequate quantity of food."

"The daily activities of the woodpeckers during the non-breeding season follow a fairly definite pattern. Beginning about sunrise, they feed and move actively during the early morning; they are quiet during the middle of the day, feed again in late afternoon, and then end the day by going to roost about dusk."

"The only factors discovered which have definitely affected the numbers and distribution of the species are the quantity of food available to the birds and their destruction by man."

and reiterating one last time,
"...one must draw conclusions carefully and with reservations."

Sunday, May 16, 2010


-- Another May Passing --


It's the middle of May... do you know where any Ivory-billed Woodpeckers are???

Traditionally, May, with its heat, humidity, leaf-out, and skeeters, is the end of the Ivory-bill search season, and while kents and hints and further tidbits of continuing possibilities do dribble in, nothing appears imminent that is likely to be persuasive to the many who now perceive the whole IBWO search as an extensive goose chase of the wild sort. Indeed, since Cornell's 'official' announcement that they are suspending their search, most of the public seem to presume the search is over and done with.
It isn't, and won't be for awhile yet, but will be difficult to ever again excite folks over announced sightings or fuzzy pictures or claims not directly-accompanied with clearcut video or a dead carcass.

Perhaps a long, slow summer ahead for those of us who don't conform to the wild-goose-chase scenario; a chance to review the amassed data and claims, as best it is available online, without awaiting whatever conclusions(?) Cornell or others may publish next year.
(If any of you independent searchers who don't have an internet presence and who've contacted me privately in the past, are continuing some searching through the summer, please email me and let me know what you're up to and where, just so I can keep track of current activity --- thanks.)

In other (non-IBWO) news, Molly the Owl's 4 barn owlets are very close to fledging (at least one spent some time outside the nestbox last night):


...and in other owl news, it seems doubtful that this odd story will end well:



Tuesday, May 11, 2010


-- Kinda Cool --


Video of one of Bobby Harrison's robotic Ivory-bill decoys (employed during searches) in action here:

[ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RegNsTLKAAg&feature=channel ]

Monday, May 10, 2010


-- Dancing Clean --


Nothing whatsoever to do with Ivory-billed Woodpeckers... just a bit for people who are either fans of owls or fans of ABBA (if you are among the many who don't care for EITHER, then do not, I repeat DO NOT!, click on the arrow):

[ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0fIBrsyu0A ]


Sunday, May 09, 2010


-- Forest Fragmentation and Nest Predation --


Article here on increased nest predation by rat snakes accompanying forest fragmentation:


From the article:

"Everywhere there have been camera studies, as long as it's in wooded or semi-wooded habitat, rat snakes emerge as the single most important predator. They're common throughout the range, and they're really good at finding bird nests."


"...rat snakes are very opportunistic," Weatherhead said. "I have a picture of a rat snake eating a full-grown squirrel. So that's a mouthful. They're generalists both in terms of the mammals they eat and in terms of the birds that they prey on. They'll take whatever birds they encounter, and because they're such good climbers, they can get to both low nests and high nests. They can climb just about any kind of tree. They eat bird eggs, fledglings and sometimes they'll even get the mom if she's sitting on the eggs..."

Saturday, May 08, 2010


-- Weekend Entertainment --


Nestcam of Spanish storks with 4-5 babies (hey, it's a big black-and-white bird, with a big beak; might be as close as we ever get....):

[ http://www.ustream.tv/channel/new/stork-family-live ]


Tuesday, May 04, 2010


-- Deja Vu --


Once more for old time's sake
(one of Dave Nolin's videos; Pileated in flight):

[ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFPEAQe0qCk ]

Dave's other videos can be downloaded from here:

...and the Luneau video here:


And finally, I've previously reported on the computer simulation (animation) work grad student Jeff Wang had been doing to simulate Ivory-billed and Pileated Woodpeckers in the flight pattern of the Luneau video, but I never saw a final conclusion from that work, and only just now discovered the following article (from Jan. of this yr.) which, as I surmised, indicates the simulation work was simply inconclusive (surprise, surprise):


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