This gives me hope for the world

28 04 2005

From CNN.com:
Experts: Woodpecker feared extinct found
Ivory-billed woodpecker last confirmed 60 years ago
Thursday, April 28, 2005 Posted: 10:36 AM EDT (1436 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The ivory-billed woodpecker, long feared extinct, has been rediscovered in a remote part of Arkansas some 60 years after the last confirmed U.S. sighting, bird experts said Thursday.

Several people have seen and heard an ivory-billed woodpecker in a protected forest in eastern Arkansas near the last reliable sighting of the bird in 1944, and one was captured on video last year.

“The ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), long suspected to be extinct, has been rediscovered in the ‘Big Woods’ region of eastern Arkansas,” researchers wrote in the journal Science in an article hastily prepared for release.

“Visual encounters during 2004 and 2005, and analysis of a video clip from April 2004, confirm the existence of at least one male.”

Drumming sounds made by the birds have also been heard, the researchers said.

“This is huge. Just huge,” said Frank Gill, senior ornithologist at the Audubon Society. “It is kind of like finding Elvis.”

Gill said there is little doubt the sightings are genuine. The experts were expected to display some of the evidence at a news conference at the Department of the Interior later Thursday.

“The ivory-billed woodpecker is one of six North American bird species suspected or known to have gone extinct since 1880,” wrote the researchers, led by John Fitzpatrick of the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology in New York.

“The others are Labrador duck (Camptorhynchus labradorius), Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis), Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis), passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), and Bachman’s warbler (Vermivora bachmanii).”

Big but shy
A large, dramatic-looking bird, the ivory-billed woodpecker was known to be shy and to prefer the deep woods of the U.S. Southeast.

“Its disappearance coincided with systematic annihilation of virgin tall forests across southeastern United States between 1880 and the 1940s,” the researchers wrote.

People claimed to have seen it but the bird closely resembles the pileated woodpecker, which is noisy, less shy and quite common.

More reliable sightings were reported in Cuba as late as the 1980s.

“There have been lots and lots of reports and many of them have been off but others have been possible,” Gill said in a telephone interview. “But this time we got it.”

The ivory-billed woodpecker was known to be shy and to prefer the deep woods of the U.S. Southeast.
Gill said the bird was seen just over the border from Louisiana where the last documented ivory-bill was seen in 1944. “As a woodpecker flies it’s not far,” he said.

The birds only live about 15 years so the sightings mean they must be breeding somewhere.

“There has got to be a pretty serious lineage,” Gill said. “It’s got to be more than a few.”

People are likely to flock to the area to try to see the birds themselves but it will be difficult, Gill said.

“It is not something you just go down and see. Your odds are very low,” Gill said. “It is remote, difficult country. This time of year it is getting very buggy and very snakey and there is a lot of foliage.”

But the discovery may help get protection for a larger area of the Big Woods, the nonprofit Nature Conservancy said.

“This area was once the largest expanse of forested wetlands in the country, originally consisting of 21 million acres of bottomland hardwood forests. Today, only 4.9 million acres remain, mostly in scattered woodland patches,” it says on its Internet Web site.

“It’s just the most exciting report in my lifetime. I think we will move … to make this a globally important bird wildlife area,” Gill said.

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