Extinction’s Yo-Yo  –  The Ivory-billed Woodpecker

News Brief by Kip Hansen – 14 April 2022

The poor Ivory-billed Woodpecker must feel like a yo-yo – being declared extinct, probably extinct and nearly maybe extinct and then being un-extincted,  repeatedly over the last decade or so.

Here are some typical headlines:

The ‘Lord God Bird’ might be extinct, but the story of the ivory-billed woodpecker isn’t over yet”

Humans Have Officially Killed Off the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

“The ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is a possibly extinct woodpecker”  

Is it too soon to declare the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct?

The ivory-billed woodpecker, along with 22 other species of birds, fish, mussels and other wildlife, is set to be declared extinct and removed from the endangered species list…”

“Ivory-billed Woodpecker to Be Officially Declared Extinct in U.S. “

And now?

Back From The Dead? Elusive Ivory-Bill Woodpecker Not Extinct: Researchers

 A brand-new paper starts this way:

“The history of decline of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is long, complex, and controversial. The last widely accepted sighting of this species in continental North America was 1944. Reports of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have continued, yet in 2021 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed declaring the species extinct. We draw on 10 years of search effort, and provide trail camera photos and drone videos suggesting the consistent presence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers at our study site.”

The paper it titled “Multiple lines of evidence indicate survival of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana” [.pdf] and written by Steven C. Latta, Mark A. Michaels, Don Scheifler, Thomas C. Michot Peggy L. Shrume, Patricia Johnson, Jay Tischendorf, Michael Weeks, John Trochet and Bob Ford. The authors are from a diverse collection of universities and agencies.   It is not the work of one disgruntled bird enthusiast. 

Their findings include:

”We believe that our observations contribute to a clearer understanding of the twin problems of why the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has been so difficult to detect and to relocate over the past 80 years. These issues begin with the misperception that, if present, the Ivory-bill is relatively easy to find – a misperception that extends at least as far back as Tanner (in 1944)” or, as stated elsewhere in the paper “that the Ivory-bill should be noisy and easy to find.” 

“Misperceptions on the ease of finding the Ivory-bill extend to the frequent argument that in the modern era it is unlikely that a large, distinctive woodpecker could escape the sights, cameras, and recorders, of birdwatchers and other people who are recreating or working outdoors in remote areas.”

“Beyond the questions of detection and documentation, our data offer insights into how the ecology and behavior of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker would contribute to the difficulty in finding or re-finding this species. We know that the Ivory-bill inhabits some of the most difficult to access habitat in the U.S., and that mature bottomland forests are a core component of that habitat.”

And then, as with many other subjects: 

“The authenticity of reports from non-scientists, hunters, fishermen, and rural residents, who may be the most likely people to access habitats such as those occupied by the Ivory-bill, are often dismissed. Though often keen and knowledgeable observers of their natural world, their observations of rare or unusual species are frequently devalued relative to the science-based perspectives of researchers.”

As usual, the experts wouldn’t accept the practical evidence from those mostly likely to have good evidence. 

Besides that, apparently Ivory-bills don’t really like people and avoid them and populated areas.

Bottom Line:

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers are not extinct – but are rare and live in limited areas of bottom-land forests far from humans.  They are not booming but they are not gone.   

Does it really matter?  In the larger scheme of things, probably not, there are actually just a large woodpecker, a little mysterious,  with a limited range.

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Author’s Comment:

I have been amused by the on-again-off-again Ivory-bill story.  I do like woodpeckers though.  My five-year old grandson and I built this peanut feeder for his back yard and he insisted on adding the lettering . . . .

Thanks for reading.

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via Watts Up With That?


April 14, 2022 at 08:49AM

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