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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

Monday, March 28, 2011


-- Pelagic Ghost Bird --


Paul Hess reports at the ABA Blog on another 'bird of hope,' the Bermuda Petrel, a long-distance flier, once thought extinct, now recovering though still very scarce:


-- "Passion" to "Melancholy" --


Haven't heard a whole lot publicly from Tim Gallagher (one of the original early Big Woods sighters of the IBWO, and author of "The Grail Bird") since the story has dragged on, but he is interviewed as the first second (about 6 mins. in) story in this recent Web podcast:



Thursday, March 24, 2011


-- Leucistic PIWO in PA. --


Wow! Corey at "10000 Birds" blog reports on a gorgeously leucistic Pileated Woodpecker from Pennsylvania here:


...not a specimen that could ever be confused with an IBWO, but just a splendid individual in its own right... wonder what the parents and any sibs looked like?

Monday, March 21, 2011


-- Collins Speaking --


Sorry for the late notice, but just received the info that Mike Collins is giving a free talk later this afternoon at the University of Mississippi, on his IBWO work in the Pearl:


If anyone catches the talk, feel free to report to us how it went...

ADDENDUM: ...additionally, a reader informs me that Mike recently published a paper on some of his work in "The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America," the abstract for which is here:


Further Addendum: there is a link to a pdf copy of Mike's paper (for personal use) on the 3-21-11 entry to his webpage: http://www.fishcrow.com/winter11.html (update: the link & 3/21 posting have now been removed, but the paper can still be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/3so7oos or here: http://www.fishcrow.com/JASAv129p1626.pdf )

Friday, March 18, 2011


-- Louisiana Update --


"Project Coyote" in La. posts a new update to their work, linked to from this page (March 17):


It includes VERY faint double-knock recording and pics of some further bark-scaling.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


-- Memories --


When I asked folks a bit ago to relate how they may have first become interested in the IBWO story decades ago, I thought some common thread or theme to their memories might arise. Only 4 people have thus far responded and I don't see any real commonality to their stories, so I may just go ahead and re-print a couple of the more extended reports verbatim, as interesting in their own right. This one comes from Charles Williams of Louisiana and runs as follows:

"I'm now 63 and date my interest to the age of 12 when I read the woodpeckers section of Dr. George Lowery's "Louisiana Birds." My dad had an autographed copy of the1955 First Edition, which I still have, and it provided me -- a young boy steeped in the outdoors from many hunting and fishing trips in the backswamps of NE Louisiana -- with much fuel for the imagination as well as some factual information and practical skills. For one thing, I learned official names for many of the birds I had come to know -- flicker in place of "yellowhammer," ring-necked duck in place of "blackjack," and cormorant in place of "water turkey."

Lowery's account of seeing "not one but four" IBs in 1935 thrilled and saddened me then as much as it does now. I remember asking myself how anyone could know that the Singer Tract birds were the end of the road for this species, and I imagined myself finding them on a trip to some of the remote areas where we hunted and fished in the Boeuf-Lafourche swamp, along Little River near Catahoula Lake, and at a friend's deer lease on Davis Island. These fantasies were fed in those days not by media reports or acrimonious debates between believers and skeptics but by my direct contact with persons who had seen or knew of IBs occurring subsequent to 1943, which per Lowery was the last year of a definite sighting in the Singer tract area.

One of these contacts was in 1967 when I took a summer course, offered by the Louisiana Tech Forestry Department, titled as a "Delta bottomland land use seminar and tour." One of the foresters from La. Tech (probably 40 years old at that time when I was 20) and I talked about the logging out of the bottomlands, the economics of the remaining cutover forests, the rapid clearing for soybean farming that was then going on the Delta areas (later to be my M.A. thesis topic at LSU, and the wildlife. The discussion turned to IBs and when I mentioned that "many people believe they're extinct," his immediate, matter-of-fact rejoinder was something like "well maybe but I personally saw two about ten years ago along the Ouachita River." The location, it turned out, was in the Ouachita River bottomlands north of my home town of Monroe, a very low-lying area that today is part of the Upper Ouachita NWR. He commented that he knew Pileateds very well and I recall his comments about the many differences in appearance, sound, and flight between the two species. There was no question in my mind that he had seen two IBs.

During the land use seminar and tour, we also visited corporate farms and cottonwood plantations in the vicinity of Scott, Mississippi, near the Mississippi River north of Greenville. This was not far from a tract of land in Bolivar County where IBs were known to exist in some numbers in the 1930s and 1940s, a point that was mentioned by one of the company foresters. Many years later I learned that IBs existed in Bolivar County east of Rosedale in a bottomland tract very similar to the Singer Tract which was also wiped out during the same time period as the Singer Tract. This IB population completely escaped Tanner's notice and added fuel to my belief that a few birds could be out there somewhere. The Bolivar County population was especially close to the Mississippi River batture lands just to the west, which in turn connects just a little farther north with the lower White River area where some detections occurred during the Cornell searches!

A few years after the Delta land use seminar and tour, I became a student in the LSU Department of Geography and studied the economic, technological, flood control, and other factors that contributed to the rapid clearing up of the bottomland forests in the 60s and extending into the early 70s. While I was at LSU, I recall hearing of IB reports from the southern part of the Atchafalaya Basin (vicinity of Franklin, LA) and I recall Dr. Lowery's experience when he presented and vouched for the Fielding Lewis photos. I recall dismissing then, as I still do, the skepticism with which these claims and photos were met in the national ornithology arena.

So I was definitely a believer for decades and I feel sure that IBs existed at least into the 80s. Now I am somewhat on the fence about IBs. I have been in some official searches and my best result was a few kent calls in Arkansas that I could not attribute to blue jays. My evaluation of some of the sighting reports of recent years is they are valid, and probably, but just probably, there are a few IBs still out there. I'm still enough of a believer to always have my digital camera on hand when I fish and hunt in the Atchafalaya Basin areas just west of my current home in Baton Rouge."

Thanks for sharing so many recollections with us Charles....

Sunday, March 13, 2011


-- Geoff Hill Recounts --


New article out of Alabama with Professor Geoff Hill reviewing the IBWO situation:


Monday, March 07, 2011


-- "...under everyone's noses... for decades" --


Just a couple of misc. bird stories today:

First, news making ornithological rounds lately of a new species of storm petrel recently discovered off the coast of Chile:


Given the still somewhat fluid scientific definition of "species," and sheer volume of earthly habitat, one suspects there could be plenty more "new" avian species still to be found or "split" off from others, but this is the current one du jour.

More fascinating for me, was this morning's NPR report from the always wonderful** Robert Krulwich on a couple of flamingos that 'fell out' of the sky in Siberia one year apart back in 2003 and 2004 (...that's right I said FLAMINGOS), and lived to tell about it... or at least get reported on by NPR. Really, a quite fascinating story --- give it a listen or read if you missed it (I'd never heard this report before, nor had I ever heard of "reverse migration" as discussed therein) :


** that's right JP, I said always wonderful (....inside joke)

Saturday, March 05, 2011


-- To The 'Oldsters' Out There --


This may go nowhere, but I'll try it to see....

Much of the interest in the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has come in the last 6 years since the sudden announcement from Arkansas, or even going back to the 1999 claim by David Kulivan in Louisiana. But I know there are folks who have been continuously fascinated with this bird since the 40's, 50's, 60's, or 70's, growing up as children or teenagers reading/hearing about it.

If you are someone who has been interested in the IBWO from a very young age, decades ago, and remember how you got interested, I'd be curious to hear your story. Once again email me at: cyberthrush@gmail.com

The purpose would be to possibly fashion a blog post about people who are enamored of this bird today because of reading or experiences they had in childhood or teenage years, long before the current flurry of attention. So don't write me anything you DON'T want to show up in a blog post, and once again you can either use your real name, internet handle, or remain anonymous.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


-- Indian Artifact --


And now for something totally
different.... :-)

Artist/naturalist Mark Ross in Fairbanks Alaska sends in an inquiry about a sketch of an Indian artifact he came across in a biography of artist Ernest T. Seton. He believes it may be Ivo
ry-bill-related. If you can help Mark settle his question, or point him in the direction of someone who can, please reply in the comments, or if necessary, you may email to me for passing along to Mark (the image in question is down below), and here is what Mark has to say:

"Here’s something ivorybill related that I’ve wondered about for quite a while now… Audubon and Catesby described Indian ornaments that were decorated with the tufts and bills of ivorybills. Sometimes fashioned in the form of a coronet. Catesby: “The bills of these Birds are much valued by the Canada Indians, who make coronets of them for their Princes and great warriers, by fixing them round a wreath, with their points outward.” In an illustrated biography of Ernest Thompson Seton (b.1860-1946) by Samson: Adventures in the Wild, p. 185 depicts Seton’s pencil illustration of what may be a wreath/coronet of 20 woodpecker bills. It’s the first illustration of the chapter titled: “Indians and Woodcraft”. There’s no caption or explanation of the drawing. Seton, from Canada, is known for his studies of Native American culture and excellent renderings of nature.
I believe the drawing depicts a coronet of bills. Perhaps ivorybills. Some of the pieces are drawn wide enough at the base to be bills, and these are probably old dry bills that have shrunk and may appear generally thinner than a live bill. Notice the longitudinal shading along the length of some pieces. the longitudinal shading is describing a piece that is angled down on both sides from the center line. A feather doesn’t have such sharp angles laterally from the length of the rachis (shaft); definitely not primaries; maybe a sage grouse tail feather? No they’re flatter, and Seton would probably draw some of the distinct color pattern. Also, look carefully at the longitudinal shading. The shaded side has lighter longitudinal lines within the dark part. I believe the lighter lines within the shaded area depict the “chisel-like bevels” that are present on woodpecker bills (noticeably extending from the nares)."

Any thoughts?.... Any Indian artifact museum curators out there???


-- Magnificent Magellanics --


Delightful old David Attenborough BBC video clip of Magellanic Woodpeckers presented by Bill Benish over at his Campephilus Woodpecker blog here:


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