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Ivory Billed Woodpecker?

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  • Lori Conrad
    Hi all This was posted on the AZ listserve, & since I hadn t seen it yet on ours, here it is, for what it s worth! Lori Conrad Hermosa Beach, CA Woodpecker
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 27, 2005
      Hi all

      This was posted on the AZ listserve, & since I hadn't seen it yet on ours, here it is, for what it's worth!

      Lori Conrad
      Hermosa Beach, CA

      Woodpecker 'rediscovery' sets birders all atwitter

      Charles Seabrook
      Cox News Service
      Apr. 27, 2005 07:15 PM

      ATLANTA - For nearly 60 years, bird lovers have slogged through the swampwaters of the Deep South, along the bayous and rivers feeding the Mississippi River, searching in vain for a spectacular bird long thought to be extinct - the ivory-billed woodpecker.

      In news bound to electrify bird lovers worldwide, scientists are expected to announce today the "rediscovery" of the ivory-bill in a remote swampy area of northeast Arkansas known as the Big Woods.

      At least one male ivory-bill has been found alive and well in the deep forest of bottomland hardwoods between Little Rock and Memphis. It is the first confirmed sighting of the long-sought bird since World War II. advertisement

      Other ivory-bills are presumed to be living there. For thousands of birding enthusiasts, the confirmation of a sighting will be a dream come true.

      "It's incredible news," said Steve R. Runnels, president of the American Birding Association. "This is the most exciting ornithological discovery in a long, long time."

      U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton and officials with the Nature Conservancy, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are scheduled to make the announcement in Washington this morning.

      The Interior Department touted the event as "the dramatic rediscovery of a species previously believed extinct."

      The on-line edition of Science magazine is expected to publish today a detailed account of the woodpecker's rediscovery.

      As word about the woodpecker leaked out, birder chat lines were buzzing and calls poured in to birding organizations.

      Late Wednesday afternoon, Mary Scott, an Arizona birding enthusiast who has pursued the ivory-billed woodpecker for years, posted on the Internet an account of her personal encounter with the bird in Arkansas. She said her sighting two years ago of the white-striped woodpecker with a crested crown helped spur scientists and conservation officials to come to Arkansas and confirm that the bird, indeed, is living there.

      "For me, the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker has ended," she said.

      The moment she first saw the bird was unforgettable.

      "The sight was overwhelming," she recalled. "It was huge, and was hanging from the trunk of the tree."

      She insisted the exact location be kept secret to prevent hordes of birdwatchers from thundering into the area, eager to add an ivory-bill sighting to their "life lists" of species they have seen.

      Runnels agreed the location should not be revealed. "It would be a nightmare with all the people trying to see the bird," he said.

      Larger than a crow, the ivory-billed woodpecker was - and perhaps still is - at 20 inches the largest woodpecker in North America. Its call, say those who have heard it, is a nasal "kent-kent-kent," what some say is like the sound of a child's tin horn.

      The bird once ranged from Texas to North Carolina.

      Most experts believe the woodpecker became extinct in the United States because its habitats of old-growth forest and bottomland swamps were felled for timber and drained, its rich soils planted in cotton and soybeans or the land developed. One of the last places the bird had been seen was along the Altamaha River in Georgia in the 1930s.

      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a futile five-year search in Georgia and other Southern states in the 1980s. Reliable sightings of a subspecies of ivory-bill in Cuba were reported in 1986, but information since then has been sketchy.

      In 2002, a research team embarked on a 30-day expedition in the Louisiana-Mississippi Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, about an hour's drive from New Orleans, to try to find the woodpecker. The researchers were acting on a reported sighting by Louisiana State University forestry student David Kulivan in April 1999. The bird was never tracked down.

      Over the years, the ivory-bill's rarity, beauty and the intriguing mystery of whether it survives have captured the imaginations of bird enthusiasts.

      Former President Theodore Roosevelt, who hunted in the Mississippi River woodlands, once wrote that "the great ivory-billed woodpecker . . . seemed to me to set off the wilderness of the swamp as much as the beasts of the chase."

      Confirming the bird's identity has been complicated by its resemblance to a close cousin - the pileated woodpecker. The pileated is smaller and its markings are a bit different.

      While perching, the back of a pileated is solid black, while a perched ivory-bill sports large patches of white in the form of a shield on the lower back.

      "It will take a lot to convince me that they have found the ivory-billed woodpecker," said Gary Lester, head of Louisiana's Natural Heritage Program, who took part in the 2002 search.

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