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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

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


-- Those Kenting Blue Jays --


The circumstance of Blue Jays doing expertly-rendered Ivory-bill 'kent' calls has long been an issue for IBWO searchers. There is no doubt that Blue Jays, well-known "mimics," utter a near perfect copy (to the human ear) of the Ivory-bill's signature sound. Why or how that arose is more a matter of debate, but anyway, I was amused to see a recent exchange on the Texas birding listserv... 
After a poster made note of a mockingbird imitating a blackbird's sound, Fred Collins chimed in with,

"And then there was the Blue Jay doing a perfect imitation of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Nacogdoches, TX in 2007. When and where did he learn that!"

To which another poster responded:

"Referring to Fred's Blue Jay doing Ivory-billed Woodpecker calls in 2007 the Blue Jays at Cache River in AR in winter of 2006 made perfect IBWO calls!! A call passed down generations that became a regular call or…"

Rarely, but occasionally, I've heard/watched Blue Jays give clear "kent" calls in my own area, where IBWOs were never known to exist, and it is a bit spooky!
Cornell attempted to address the issue of Blue Jay calls years ago, though I'm not sure much was ever resolved (though on spectrographic analysis they seem to feel they could differentiate the calls):


I suspect we will never know why, how often, or under what circumstances, Blue Jays voice the calls, nor how much the frequency varies (if at all) by area of the country.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014


-- Of Tragedies and Centennials --


"Martha" from Wikipedia
While hope for the Ivory-bill seems to hang by a thread, hope for another species is gone. This is the centennial year for the official extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, with the death of "Martha" in captivity in 1914. "Project Passenger Pigeon" hopes to tell the story of (and lessons from) the Passenger Pigeon saga to all who will listen this year. Their website here:


One of the projects they're connected with is a documentary film, "From Billions to None" hoping for release later this year:


And today on NPR's "Diane Rehm Show" writer Joel Greenberg, author of "A Feathered River Across the Sky," told the Passenger Pigeon's incredible and sad story to a national audience. If you missed it, worth a listen (1 hour):


The demise of "Martha," at the time in the Cincinnati Zoo, means we at least have a marker by which to celebrate a centennial for this extraordinary species... No one currently knows when/if? the last Ivory-bill died.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014


-- Jerry Jackson Retires --


Well, this is sort of big news to start off the year (though certainly not unexpected):


Dr. Jerome Jackson is retiring. Dr. Jackson has been one of my heroes for the last 30+ years, both in ornithology more generally as well as in the IBWO story more specifically -- and I realize a number of Ivorybill enthusiasts have issues with Dr. Jackson (nor have I agreed with everything he's written). But pretty much the only reason a Gene Sparling, or a Tim Gallagher, or Cornell Lab of Ornithology could step forth in 2005 and claim to have found an Ivory-billed Woodpecker... and not be laughed at... was because of the earlier work done by Jackson. His work is renowned on many fronts, as is his reputation as a teacher of budding naturalists.

On those very rare occasions over the past several years when something IBWO-related crossed my desk that I wanted to hear the opinion of others higher-up about, Jerry Jackson was at the top of my list of the views I wanted to hear.

Julie Zickefoose, in her 1999 essay (well before all the Arkansas excitement) for Bird Watcher's Digest wrote:
"Jerry Jackson, by virtue of his unique combination of ornithological expertise, woodsman's smarts, and unalloyed faith, refuses to close the book on the ivory-billed woodpecker. Alone among all those I've spoken with, he continues to search. He truly believes that, somewhere on the planet, ivorybills still hitch and rap and toss their fluffy topknots, pound their great shining bills into bark, fly in long straight lines over a sea of treetops. As much as I would like to see an ivory-billed woodpecker, I wish more that Jerry would see one."
And of course, I too wish, that in retirement, just maybe, perhaps, possibly, the-gods-be-willing and the stars aligning just so, Jerry will find the time to at long-last document the most elusive quarry of his career, because after-all, as his wife intones, "he's kind of driven." ;-)

In any event, sincerely Happy Retirement Dr. Jackson!


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