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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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"....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, October 10, 2017


-- Where Oh Where… --


Mark Michaels continues his historical look at Ivory-bill data here:

The history is of course interesting, though I’m not sure it will help find IBWOs today, but his main point that IBWOs likely succeeded in a greater range of habitat than Tanner would later imply, still holds (especially if you go back far enough). Mark also adds this original mapping of historical claims or specimens from uncharacteristic habitat:


In this regard I’ve previously mentioned that I thought Bill Pulliam’s writings on western Tennessee (and other claims for there) of some interest, but there are many other such odd or outlying areas as well (over the years I’ve had reports sent to me, that I couldn’t always completely discount, from southern Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, and parts of Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina outside the traditional IBWO range). One of my hopes for the widepread USFWS/Cornell search was that it would at least narrow any possible IBWO persistence down to a very few (perhaps 2-3) localized areas; instead the failed endeavor left open the possibility of 2 dozen or more (sometimes little-birded) areas that scarce IBWOs might conceivably utilize. The lack of a single Ivory-billed Woodpecker appearing on remote, automatic cameras by now at more traditional and well-searched areas remains a pretty devastating obstacle to hope for the species… unless indeed it has found a home in the canopies of less-obvious, lightly human-trafficked woodlands.
I don’t want to hold out too much false(?) hope for this species, but on the other hand I believe most southeast woodland habitat is rarely birded in any regular or significant fashion and the vast majority of individual woodland birds are never systematically recorded — moreover, the ornithological literature is rife with weak, unscientific conclusions/generalizations/assumptions about bird behavior, and perhaps even bird biology. There's just a lot we don't know, while pretending we do.


Some of the issues you raise (though not the trail cams) will be addressed and should become clearer in the upcoming posts.

I thought I should clarify that the post is really not a critique of Tanner (though I've been very critical of him at times). It's more about a mythology that predates and to some extent consumes him. It starts with Audubon and was reiterated by Hasbrouck. I do think Tanner was influenced by this mythology, especially in his surveys, treatment of reports, and in his later years. As a product of his times, he did buy into the "virgin forest"/frontier mythos.

Tanner frustrates me endlessly. His writing is opaque, and one has to read everything multiple times to get what he's really saying or seems to be saying.

Still, his own data provide the foundation for most of what I've discussed in the post, for the most part, and it's not his fault that people haven't read him closely enough.
Yeah, Tanner’s study of course spanned several years and it’s always been my impression that he changed his mind off-and-on about certain things over that time. In the end he had to state conclusions for his final report, and once he was hailed for that study and his expertise, things that may have actually been more tentative in his mind I think became more absolute and locked in place (just my impression).

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