Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird conservation, Bird identification, Bird sightings Updated: July 18, 2012 - 2:02 PM

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers – I don’t think I’ve discussed my interest here on the blog. I've written in my StarTribune column about trips I’ve taken to look for the bird. There is widely held skepticism about the continued existence of the bird. It is thought by many scientists and casual birders, perhaps most of them, that the bird went extinct decades ago. Don’t believe it.

Of course, you can’t absolutely prove it by me, unless you want to share my belief that decades of sighting reports, hundreds of them, cannot all be wrong. I choose to believe that all of those people – ornithologists, biologists, birders, fishermen, hunters, guys driving down the road – all of them cannot be making the same error, seeing one thing and believing it to be another. Ivory-billed Woodpeckers are alive and well somewhere. Evidence says they live in several different somewheres.

The sightings in along the White River in Arkansas in 2005 provide the best evidence overall. Observers associated with the Cornell (University) Lab of Ornithology had seven solid sightings. Two friends were there and saw the bird(s). I believe them. Period.

Today (Wednesday) I spoke with the friend who has taken me to Louisiana on Ivory-billed hunts three times. He’s seen and heard the bird. I have not. On his most recent trip, a few weeks ago, one bird was heard, the double-knock sound created when the bird pounds a tree in a particular rhythm. He also spoke with two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists who have had recent sightings. One was of the woodpecker flying across a road, the other a sighting from an airplane doing survey work.

The Internet abounds with information about Ivory-bills. Several good books recently have been published offering reports, analysis, and wish-I-had-been-there stories.

 

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