Not extinct: Ivory-billed Woodpecker lives in Florida
Not extinct? Ivory-billed Woodpecker may live in Florida
September 26, 2006
Researchers found evidence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, a bird once believed to be extinct, in a remote river basin in the panhandle of Florida.
The discovery, announced in Avian Conservation & Ecology, was made in May 2005 by a research team led by Auburn University professor Geoff Hill. The bird was sighted on the Choctawhatchee River, though the team captured no photographs of the species.
“It was just to be a weekend outing looking for potential habitat,” said Hill in a news release from Auburn University. “We really never dreamed we’d actually find an ivorybill.”
Male Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis. History of North American Birds–Land Birds
Following the sighting, Hill organized a follow-up search of the area which resulted in a compilation of evidence supporting the contention that an Ivory-billed Woodpecker population lives in Florida.
“Among the promising evidence are recordings of kent’ vocalizations apparently being given by two birds in response to one another, and double raps recorded in conjunction with vocalizations,” said Jerome A. Jackson, a professor of biology at Florida Gulf Coast University. “The researchers have presented this evidence with an appropriate note of caution, but let’s keep the hope alive that Hill and his colleagues may have quietly found an ivorybill Shangri-la along the Choctawhatchee.”
While the researchers are “confident that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers persist in the swamp forests along the Choctawhatchee, they realize that the evidence amassed to date is not conclusive proof.”
“The only evidence that would constitute irrefutable proof is a clear photograph or video of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and such an image has to date eluded us,” said Hill.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is among the world’s best known “extinct” bird species. Believed to be extinct since 1944 due to widespread destruction of its hardwood swamps and pine forest habitat in the southern United States, there have been sporadic sightings of the bird in recent years but still no definitive proof that the bird persists. Since 2004 several expeditions have been organized in Arkansas to confirm the existence of the bird. To add to the stakes, in June 2006 a $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to the discovery of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker nest, roost or feeding site. Even NASA has joined the search effort. In August 2006, the space agency announced the launch of a project to identify possible areas where the woodpecker might be living.
This article uses information and quotes from an Auburn University press release.