Magazine article Science News

Alive and Knocking: Glimpses of an Ivory-Billed Legend

Magazine article Science News

Alive and Knocking: Glimpses of an Ivory-Billed Legend

Article excerpt

A 4-second video released last week and reports of brief glimpses by seven observers have convinced many biologists and birders that the famed ivory-billed woodpecker has not gone extinct after all.

The third-largest woodpecker in the world, measuring some 20 inches from crest tip to tail, this bird once ranged through the old-growth forests of the southeastern United States and Cuba. Logging wiped out the old trees in those areas, and until last week, the last widely accepted U.S. sighting of the bird occurred in 1944 in Louisiana (SN: 6/22/02, p. 397).

But on April 28, the Web site of Science published an analysis by 17 authors and posted the video as proof that at least one ivory-billed woodpecker lives in the cypress and tupelo swamps of eastern Arkansas. At a Washington, D.C., briefing the same day, two cabinet secretaries, two senators, and a flock of other officials, conservationists, and journalists heard about sightings of the woodpecker and raptly watched a slowed-down video mostly of a man's knee and the side of a canoe. In the blur of the background, a big bird flashed bold white patches as it flapped into the woods (www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/science/ 2005-04/fitzpatrick-04-28-05.html).

"The ivory-billed woodpecker has been rediscovered," announced John Fitzpatrick, one of the authors and director of Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology. "In the world of birding, nothing could be more longed for than to rediscover this bird."

Fitzpatrick's team identified five diagnostic traits of an ivory-billed woodpecker in the video, made by a searcher who kept a camera strapped to his canoe and running all the time. The bird is too big to be a pileated woodpecker but falls into the range of museum specimens of ivory-billed woodpeckers, the team says.

"As soon as I saw the video--There you go!" says Terry Rich in Boise, Idaho, who coordinates the Partners in Flight international conservation program for the U. …

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