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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

Thursday, September 30, 2010


-- Big Woods Happenings --


For awhile now, Jackson Roe, with his dad, has been independently searching a Big Woods area (Arkansas) known for previously-followed-up-on IBWO claims, and now reports on his blog (Thur., Sept. 30 post) what he believes was a sighting of 2 Ivorybills:


Jackson was kind enough to send along some additional details to me via email (since ironically I had recently written a post about "copious" details being needed for any claim), and of course I can only wish Jackson well in trying to further document the birds. The report is not unlike many previous reports of brief encounters, except for the claim that a pair of birds (male and female) were present... sightings involving pairs are fairly unusual.

...and the beat goes on.

[11/2/10 Addendum: sighting later retracted as being Red-headed Woodpeckers.]

-- Mammal Study Lends Readers Hope --


Readers send along this news release of research from Aussie scientists predicting that a third of "extinct" mammals may yet be rediscovered:


"It turns out that rumors of the extinction of more than a third of these species have turned out to be premature, the scientists report in Proceedings of the Royal Society B Sept. 29. At least 67 species — a little more than a third of those presumed to be extinct — were later found again. And in most cases, these were animals that had been hardest hit by habitat loss.
"...If the main cause of decline was habitat loss, you are quite likely to be wrong if you say that it’s extinct, unless it was restricted to a very small area.”

Monday, September 27, 2010


-- ...more difficult than ever --


Somewhat oddly I've had about the same number of stray Ivory-bill sighting claims arrive in my email box this summer as in the past; none very detailed or persuasive, yet they come. It's a bit frustrating that after all this time a lot of people still don't understand that you can't just say you've seen an Ivory-bill, and you looked in a book so you know that's what it was, and be taken very seriously.

It has sometimes been hypothesized that a lot more birders think they have seen an Ivory-billed Woodpecker than have ever reported it, because BIRDERS do understand how difficult it is to be taken seriously; how grinding the questioning will be; and even the stigma attached to such a report. But for those who still don't 'get it,' if you're going to send in a claim that you've seen Ivory-bills you need to, at a minimum, fill in these details:

1. Where, when (approximate dates/time-of-day) did you see the bird(s)? and how far was it from you?
2. Describe what the bird was doing (perched, flying, on ground, pecking, etc.etc.), and how long did you see it for?
3. What makes you believe the bird seen was an Ivory-bill and not a Pileated Woodpecker?
4. Very roughly, how many Pileated Woodpeckers would you say you've seen over the years?
5. Did anyone else see the bird with you, or do you know of anyone else who has ever seen the bird in the same area?
6. Did it make any sounds?
7. Describe what you can of the woods or general habitat of the area it was seen in.
8. Are you a birder and if so for how many years? how would you describe your level of birding experience?
9. And exactly where do you purchase your moonshine?... NO, NO just kidding!!

These are the prelims... depending on answers to these basic questions I (or anyone you contact) may have another whole series of questions to follow up with. (...Understand that your report has been preceded by a couple thousand similar ones that haven't panned out.)

And I'm a patsy (who still believes the species is not dead, but just pining* ;-))... many others by now will barely even consider a lone verbal report, especially from a non-birder, that isn't accompanied by photographic or other evidence (...and I've had 'kent' sounds sent to me as well, but never one that sounded IBWO-like to my ear).
In short, though I'd like to encourage everyone who honestly thinks they've seen this bird to report it, they need to do so with the understanding that a 2 or 3 or 4 sentence report isn't even in the ballpark of adequacy... so if you can't stand the heat, you may as well stay out of the Ivory-bill kitchen; reporting you were abducted by a UFO will be as plausible to many folks.

One might've hoped that 5+ years after this whole venture began it would've become easier to credibly report encountering an Ivory-billed Woodpecker... in fact of course just the opposite has transpired, and it is now more difficult than ever. A report unaccompanied by a clear photo or video needs copious, copious details... lacking such it barely constitutes being a report at all.

* apologies to John Cleese

Friday, September 24, 2010


-- New Sibley Post --


David Sibley has a new post up at his blog better fleshing out his explanation of "wing-twisting" in bird flight in general, and with specific reference of course to the Luneau video. I'm sure there was some discomfort for David even re-visiting this whole issue at this late date, so I'm very thankful that he chose to take the time to do so, as it will help some better understand his position. I also realize his post won't end the frame-by-frame debate over just what is being seen in the Luneau bird, and I'd prefer to not get into an extended discussion here of specific frames that folks feel don't fit with David's rendering of matters, since the two interpretations simply don't seem resolvable. Given USFW/Cornell's rather dismissive take on David's position, I simply think it good that he has re-stated it:


(...As a sidenote, I will say that I think some of the confusion over this matter stems from the use of the perhaps overly-vivid term "wing-twisting" for what seems to me to be a more subtle turning, tilting, or bending of the wings, along with the 'curvature' David describes.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


-- Putting Phantoms On Your Radar --


Bill Pulliam weighs in with one last "call to action" here:


Tuesday, September 21, 2010


-- Another Look Back... and Forward --


Just another nostalgic look-back today at a 3-year-old "Birder's World" article that covered the Arkansas sighters who started this whole venture:


...and in news of the Not-quite-so-extinct-afterall Dept., a couple of readers have sent along this link to a recent find in Spain:


Saturday, September 18, 2010


-- More "Ghost Bird" --


Interviews with Scott Crocker, producer of "Ghost Bird," have been all over the internet for the last couple months as his independent, award-winning documentary makes its way around the country. Here's another recent example:


If you haven't yet seen it, you can go here to see if there is a screening scheduled in your area:


Thursday, September 16, 2010


-- "Ambivalence Permeates..." --

"When I start thinking about ivory-billed woodpeckers, I find it hard to stop. They hitch and flap and peck around in my head; they make me think about large issues, like extinction, and small things, like the look in their eyes, the gloss of their feathers."
I'm feeling a tad nostalgic today, so just a link back to one of Julie Zickefoose's wonderful pieces written over a decade ago (before Sparling, before Cornell, before Auburn, before Kulivan) that most of you have no doubt already read:


Thursday, September 09, 2010


-- 2006 Article, + Addendum --


"Concolor" sends along this link to a 2006 article (pdf) from Czech professor Jan Swart that attempts to summarize the IBWO situation and also hypothesize about the IBWO's mobility (as an explanation for the scarcity of findings):


ADDENDUM: Dr. Swart has sent along a link to further (updated) comments from him clarifying his current view of the IBWO situation (including pessimism over the species' likely persistence):


(thanks Jan for taking the time to update us)

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