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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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Friday, May 02, 2014


-- And Now This --


Yet another story of a leucistic Pileated Woodpecker today, this one in Thomasville, Georgia:


[some other leucistic Pileateds on the Web here:  http://tinyurl.com/npnhppo ]

It calls to mind yet another conundrum of the Ivory-bill situation. One thing I expected from the USFWS/Cornell searches, even if adequate documentation of Ivory-bills wasn't attained, was a very honed-down list of serious locales for further study, from the prior many possibilities. But after years of major, costly, wide-scale searches, we have an even wider list of prospective locales for study, than we had before. Incredible! 
It makes little sense that this species could reside in so many widely disparate areas, for so long, and yet not be adequately documented in 70 years. People will try to account for it by the bird's nomadic nature in search of food, but this hardly seems adequate, to explain a species possibly stretching from S.C. to east Texas, from Tenn. to the Gulf of Mexico, in such puny numbers, yet breeding successfully for decades.

I wrote here long ago that one thing that might account for the number and wide range of IBWO reports (the credible reports, once the weakest claims are discarded), would be leucistic Pileateds that by sheer coincidence mimic the markings of IBWO. I was heartened by the fact that, with the single exception of a Noel Snyder verbally-reported bird decades ago, I've never seen nor heard of such a Pileated ever being found (that actually looked like an Ivory-bill). But, still one wonders… if such birds do exist, they are certainly few and far between… probably popping up but very rarely in random disparate locations… oh yeah, sorta like Ivory-bills...

In any event, it's good that others are looking for diagnostic qualities in ancillary characteristics like foraging/scaling sign, flight style/speed, wing ratios, audio soundprints, etc., even if not conclusive, since rapid visual identification itself is now so widely-regarded as inconclusive.

Just a quick ADDENDUM, since an emailer writes that they don't see how any of these 'mutant' PIWOs could be mistaken for an Ivory-bill in the field: so to stress again, I'm not concerned about these specific leucistic individuals that have been documented, but concerned about what their parents, siblings, offspring, and cousins, who we may not have encountered, look like... leucistic patterns amongst them, or yet other PIWOs, could, by sheer genetic chance, follow far more IBWO-like patterns than the specimens shown here.

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thanks Floyd for the example... again, we have plenty of cases of PIWOs (and even crows and others) with too much white and with too little, I'm just surmising somewhere are PIWOs with possibly the right amount of white in a more saddle-like patch.
If they're in Boston, Mass. I don't much care, but if they're just outside Little Rock, Ark. or Columbia, SC. or Texas' Big Thicket etc., then I care.
Perhaps, also worth recalling some earlier birds that gave appearance of trailing white dorsal edges in flight simply due to missing primaries/secondaries letting sunlight through. (and it would be interesting to see exactly what your bird looks like in escape flight, Floyd).
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