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New sightings claimed for Ivory-Billed woodpecker

03/05/2011 11:41:41
birds/2011/ivory_billed_images_2011

New sightings claimed for Ivory-Billed woodpecker. Credit: Dr. Michael Collins

unbelievers

There have been repeated claim of sightings, and a number of very indistinct photos have been claimed. Large rewards have been offered and large amounts of cash have been spent on the search for the Ivory-Billed woodpecker. With the world of conservation desperate for cash, and vast tracks of the world in dire need of conservation, surely there is thousands of better things to with this cash?

If the Ivory-bill is still alive in the swamps of Arkansas & Florida, it has managed to cling on without our help this long. Those swamps are not going anywhere, and the bird has proved that it can avoid humans despite all their efforts and the latest technology. Alternatively, the bird is, sadly, long gone, and we should focus our attention on more productive causes.

Ivory Billed woodpecker photos and recordings claimed from Louisiana
April 2011. Dr. Michael Collins, Naval Research Laboratory scientist and bird watcher, has published an article titled "Putative audio recordings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis)" which appears in the March issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

Audio recordings - Pearl River
The audio recordings were captured in two videos of birds with characteristics consistent with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. This footage was obtained near the Pearl River in Louisiana, where there is a history of unconfirmed reports of this species. During five years of fieldwork, Collins had ten sightings and also heard the characteristic "kent" calls of this species on two occasions. Scientists working independently in three states have now published articles that report multiple sightings of and various forms of evidence for this elusive species, which is extremely difficult to observe and photograph due to its rarity, wariness, and tendency to roam over wide areas in remote swamp habitat. Read more about sightings of the Ivory-billed woodpecker.

Still image of woodpecker taken from video. Woodpecker is in centre
of red boxed area.    Taken in 2005 by Michael Collins 

Ivory-Billed woodpecker ID
During two (claimed) encounters with an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Collins heard high-pitched calls that seem to match the description of an alarm call that was reported by James Tanner in the 1930s but was never recorded. On both occasions, the calls came from the direction of the bird and began at a moment when the bird was alarmed. Several of these calls were captured in the first video, which received a positive assessment from an independent expert, Julie Zickefoose, whose paintings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have appeared on the covers of a leading ornithology journal and the leading contemporary text on this species. According to Zickefoose, the large woodpecker in the video has a large crest, large bill, long neck, and rared-back posture consistent with an Ivory-billed woodpecker, and it has ponderous and heavy flaps and takes an unusual flapping leap that is unlike anything she has seen from a Pileated Woodpecker (the only other large woodpecker in Louisiana).

Video
The second video shows a bird in flight with flaps that are radically different from the duck-like flaps that were expected, but a long overlooked clue in a photo from 1939 suggests that there had been a misconception about the flap style. The combination of the flap style and the size rule out all species native to Louisiana other than the two large woodpeckers, but several characteristics rule out Pileated Woodpecker. This footage was obtained when an Ivory-billed woodpecker flew along the bayou below a tall tree that was used as an observation platform, providing a view from an advantageous perspective of the white stripes on the back and the white patches on the wings. A little over a minute before the bird flew into view, the video captured a putative double knock that matches a putative double knock that was recorded by Hill et al. in Florida.

"Hot Zone"
Collins began searching for Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in November 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina passed through the Pearl River. His first sighting was on February 2, 2006, and then two weeks later he discovered a "hot zone" a short distance up the same bayou, where he had five sightings (two of exceptional quality) and also heard the characteristic "kent" calls of this species on two occasions (once coming simultaneously from two directions) during a five-day period. The first video was obtained in the "hot zone" on February 20, 2006.

The ivory-billed woodpecker was thought to have duck-like flaps in
which the wings remain extended throughout the flap cycle. One of
the videos revealed radically different flaps in which the wings are
folded completely closed in the middle of the upstroke. The images
from the video show the wing motion from two angles. The photo in
the upper right, which was obtained by James Tanner in 1939, shows
an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in flight and contains a clue suggesting
that there had been a misconception about the flap style.
Credit Dr. Michael Collins.
Flight patterns
Based on historical accounts of a duck-like flight, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was thought to have duck-like flaps in which the wings remain extended throughout the flap cycle. Although definitive fieldmarks were observed in the field, there seemed to be a contradiction when the video was inspected and found to reveal a flap style that is radically different from what was expected -- the wings are folded completely closed in the middle of each upstroke. This mystery was resolved by a long overlooked clue, a photo from 1939 of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in flight with the wings folded closed. The observed flap style makes sense in hindsight since it is similar to that of other large woodpeckers.

Video ID
The flyunder video provides the first putative footage of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in cruising flight. Since the bird and its reflection from the still surface of a bayou are visible, it is possible to pin down the bird's position (which can't always be deduced from video footage) by triangulation. Since the bird was initially flying nearly directly toward the camera, it was possible to simultaneously extract from the video curves that define both components (horizontal and vertical) of the wingtip motion. Since the bird flew past reference objects, it was possible to estimate wingspan and obtain the first putative data on the flight speed of this species. The video also provides the first putative data on the flap rate. The combination of the wingspan and the flap style rule out all species native to Louisiana except the two large woodpeckers, and in fact an expert on the flight mechanics of woodpeckers, Professor Bret Tobalske, of the University of Montana, is "confident it is a large woodpecker." The Pileated Woodpecker is ruled out by the narrow wing shape, high flight speed, high flap rate, and large white patches on the wings, all of which are consistent with Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The video also shows a trace of white on the back/neck that is consistent with the dorsal stripes that were observed in the field.

 

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Ivory-bill sighting

My daughter lives in the FL Panhandle. She's grown up here in Fl and knows what a Pileated Woodpecker looks like. We've had them living in our yard where she would play every day. She is now a biologist and an environmental and wildlife authority. She was dumb-struck when she saw an Ivory-bill a couple of years ago - totally unexpectedly as she was out and about on a routine outing. When she tried to share her excitement with her peers, she was ridiculed. She never speaks of the incident anymore due to the ridicule and sensitive nature of her position. I believe she saw what she saw. She is not a person given to exaggeration or excitement. She is a studious, and methodical person. This sighting of this bird haunts her till this day.

Posted by: christine | 24 Apr 2012 19:50:58

ivory billed woodpecker

how can i upload pictures of Ivory billed Woodpeckers living in a suburban area Tampa fl.

Posted by: Michael Brown | 25 Sep 2011 02:13:45

A question

Does anyone know if David Sibley or Jerome Jackson have commented on the Collin's fly under video. The bird in the Collin's video is not a Pileated Woodpecker (too much white). It's either an Ivory Billed Woodpecker or another species. I would be very curious what an established expert Ornithologist has to say about this video.

Posted by: Doug Loisel | 01 Jul 2011 20:53:33

I keep wildlife/environmental news cuttings (I'm an amateur naturalist and artist). Like others the apparent rediscovery of the Ivory-bill made my heart race, followed by a more pragmatic feeling of resignation regarding its likelihood. Along with a photo of the last authenticated sighting of an Eskimo Curlew on Galveston Island, I have reserved blank pages in my archive folders purely because of a gut feeling that these two species may somehow cling on.
Its pure romance but, like The Slender-billed Curlew and some endemic Hawiian species, each species inhabit rugged and difficult or just vast terrain.

Posted by: Steve McQueen | 08 May 2011 16:22:54

I believe there is a remnant population of Ivory-bills alive

I am a Wildlife Biologist who discovered the only known (at that time) nesting of the Black-shouldered Kite in Florida (Florida Field Naturalist, 1987). Subsequently I came to believe that the BS Kite had been occasionally nesting in the Florida long before I discovered it..........people simply did not notice it.

I have believed for many years that there is a small population of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers hanging in the Louisianan swamps.

I believe it! I know it is true. It is just a matter of months now before irrefutable proof is shown.

Posted by: robert king | 08 May 2011 03:33:19

ivory-bill sighting

great news if it's true. the comments by cyberthrush didn't seem convinced.

Posted by: robert piller | 06 May 2011 16:31:55

These aren't really "new sightings," just old ones being re-told and reported anew (because they didn't convince anyone the first time around).

Posted by: cyberthrush | 03 May 2011 23:44:34

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