April 28, 2005 5:20 AM   Subscribe

Screw bigfoot. Researchers at Cornell say they have found the ivory-bill.
[K]nown as an ornithologist's "Holy Grail," [r]esearchers from Cornell University, along with others, reportedly have found the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas, a rare bird that was last seen in the United States in the 1940s and was believed to have become extinct.
More on the story here. A digression into the legend here.
posted by piskycritter (34 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They talked about it for about ever here this morning.
posted by ibmcginty at 5:23 AM on April 28, 2005

Missed that. Thanks.
posted by piskycritter at 5:25 AM on April 28, 2005

I have long held out hope that they were not truly gone. This is truly fantastic news!
posted by spock at 5:53 AM on April 28, 2005

"... a spokesman for Tyson Chicken, a major Arkansas employer of underpaid illegal immigrants, expressed enthusiasm over the find, calling the ivory-billed woodpecker 'finger-lickin' good'."
posted by orthogonality at 6:21 AM on April 28, 2005

I am also glad to see them back. My piano keys need replacing and PETA screwed up the elephant tusk market for everyone.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 6:33 AM on April 28, 2005

Hearing about this on NPR this morning really brightened my day. The enthusiasm of the scientists was rather contagious.
posted by jnthnjng at 6:37 AM on April 28, 2005

I was thrilled by the story on NPR this morning. They had done a piece a while back on the search for the ivory-bill. Maybe it seemed like "forever" to you, ibmcginty, but I thoroughly enjoyed the piece.
posted by Doohickie at 6:37 AM on April 28, 2005

What wonderful incredible news! All you haters can just step off.

The White-Cache overflow is the North American version of the Amazon basin. Back when the Mississippi River floodplain was still 100 miles wide, the White-Cache and the Atchafalaya would become part of the Mississippi during floods. Those natural barriers to human "progress" made it possible for an isolated population of black bear to survive the slaughter of the past few centuries.

I hope those big swamps are still big enough to support lots of baby Ivory-Bills!
posted by naomi at 6:45 AM on April 28, 2005

naomi: "All you haters can just step off."

You should see what the ivory-billed woodpecker did to Fluffy's doghouse! That bird shoulda stayed extinct! *loads his shotgun*

I kid, because I love. Hooray for some bird!
posted by Plutor at 6:57 AM on April 28, 2005

I'm very happy to hear this news. I hope that people will have the sense to leave them alone and let them be, instead of crowding into their habitat to try to get a look at them.

The pileated woodpecker, a similar species, is fairly common here in east Tennessee. It's always a pleasure to see one when I'm out on a hike. I even see one in my backyard once or twice a year.
posted by wadefranklin at 7:08 AM on April 28, 2005

Also heard this on NPR this morning, very nice story.

When I become King, NPR will be streamed into every classroom, every morning, like the anti-prayer.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 7:12 AM on April 28, 2005

nice. go big red.
posted by Stynxno at 7:26 AM on April 28, 2005

The one woodpecker we have in Seattle is the ubiquitous, continent-wide, ant-eating Northern Flicker, which comes with the most folknames and names of any species of bird that nests in North America and its onomatopoetic eponym based upon a flick-a!! flick-a! flick-a! cry very much on the Martin Denny end of the bird call spectrum. God, the ivory billed woodpecker's song--now there's the rare of rare--I wonder what that sounds like.
posted by y2karl at 9:53 AM on April 28, 2005

It might seem like nothing much, but this is big news. Heard the NPR story this morning, and it choked me up. I was crying, shaving my face and weeping.

It gives me reason to hope.

This only thing better would be discovery of a flock of passenger pigeons.
posted by mooncrow at 10:01 AM on April 28, 2005

I'm with you mooncrow. Of course, I'm the son of an ornithologist, which ratchets up my emotional investment in something like this many fold. When I read the NY Times article that described one of the Cornell birders breaking down and sobbing after seeing it, I was totally choked up. This is the birder equivalent of finding the Holy Grail.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:28 AM on April 28, 2005

I was shocked and giddy when I heard this on NPR. I literally gasped and looked at my wife with wide eyes, as if they just reported that Elvis is in fact alive (OK, bad example, comparing the number of Elvis sightings to ivory-bills in the last 30 years). Unbelievable.

*holds out hope for the eskimo curlew*
posted by DakotaPaul at 10:45 AM on April 28, 2005

This brings about an interesting question of subjective perception versus objective presence of the universe. It was assumed this creature had become extinct over half a century ago. Why? Because human beings couldn't see it. However, obviously it's been there the entire time. So, how many other species have we classified as extinct which are still around? It's like the Schroedinger Cat thing, only we assume the cat dead until we open the box; as if our perception of reality has any bearing on it whatsoever. I'm going to start assuming the dodo bird still exists, just to be on the safe side.

Of course, now that human beings can see the ivory-billed woodpecker, some of them are going to use it for target practice. I think it was better off when we assumed it wasn't there.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:00 AM on April 28, 2005

From John James Audubon's 1840 Birds of America:
I wish, kind reader, it were in my power to present to your mind's eye the favourite resort of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.... Would that I could represent to you the dangerous nature of the ground, its oozing, spongy, and miry disposition, although covered with a beautiful but treacherous carpeting, composed of the richest mosses, flags, and water-lilies, no sooner receiving the pressure of the foot than it yields and endangers the very life of the adventurer, whilst here and there, as he approaches an opening, that proves merely a lake of black muddy water, his ear is assailed by the dismal croaking of innumerable frogs, the hissing of serpents, or the bellowing of alligators!
posted by steef at 2:04 PM on April 28, 2005

Heartening story, great article with comment here.
posted by fire&wings at 3:31 PM on April 28, 2005

"I wonder what that sounds like."

Like this, according to the Cornell project.

Lord God!
posted by naomi at 4:19 PM on April 28, 2005

I'm just so happy about this. Lord God, Lord God, naomi, yes.

If you want to read a wonderful history of this bird, as well as other species (including the passenger pigeon), Hope is the Thing With Feathers by Chris Cokinos is well worth reading. Chris is a friend, but even if he weren't, I would sing this book's praises far and wide. I've been thinking of him all day, and how elated he must be. He chose the perfect title, and it came true today.
posted by melissa may at 4:32 PM on April 28, 2005

Good stuff. I cherish my neighborhood songbirds, and when I do have the chance to see (as oppose to hear) the local area woodpecker I scramble quick as I can for the binoculars. Amazing animals, and I have NO apologies for the dozens of mourning doves I killed that allowed the songbirds to be able to return to the area.
posted by buzzman at 5:20 PM on April 28, 2005

Umm... what? Mourning doves do nothing to hurt songbirds.
posted by naomi at 5:42 PM on April 28, 2005

Are there any photos of the new sighting?
posted by flummox at 6:24 PM on April 28, 2005

posted by R. Mutt at 6:34 PM on April 28, 2005

orthogonality: expressed enthusiasm over the find, calling the ivory-billed woodpecker 'finger-lickin' good' ...

Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
posted by R. Mutt at 6:39 PM on April 28, 2005

I hear they taste like chicken. Save the tough bits for DNA samples.
posted by troutfishing at 9:14 PM on April 28, 2005

Glad to know that I was not the only one moved to tears on hearing the NPR report this morning. I'm saddened whenever I learn that another species has been removed from the endangered species list because it's been moved from endangered to extinct. One of the saddest places I've been is the island of Guam, where ecological disaster has taken place and an introduced species has driven native species to the brink of extinction, and some species have gone extinct.

Yes, I'm an old school environmentalist. From the days prior to the capture and captive breeding of the California Condor my name can be found in the index of Dick Smith's "Condor Journals". It's highly likely that I am one of very few, if not the only person, who can honestly say that they've peed on a Spotted Owl. Also picked up and held an adult Blue Footed Boobie once (often gets a laugh when I say it).
posted by X4ster at 9:19 PM on April 28, 2005

Are there any photos of the new sighting?

See here for an awesome photo. I think it's from an earlier video though.

A great quote from the Cornell site: "Just to think this bird made it into the 21st century gives me chills. It's like a funeral shroud has been pulled back, giving us a glimpse of a living bird, rising Lazarus-like from the grave."
posted by naomi at 6:00 AM on April 29, 2005

Also, someone has to say it...

[this is good]
posted by naomi at 6:01 AM on April 29, 2005

and I have NO apologies for the dozens of mourning doves I killed that allowed the songbirds to be able to return to the area.

Buzzman, I don't understand. Mourning doves and songbirds coexist quite peacefully in my yard. At any given time, I may look out my window and see four or five doves, and they don't seem to prevent the visits of dozens of species of songbirds. Why are you killing doves?
posted by wadefranklin at 8:19 AM on April 29, 2005

I thought it was kind of cool hearing how worked up the ornithologists got over seeing the ivory-billed woodpecker, even though to me it's just a bird, but it made me wonder how seeing a single bird makes them think that it's back. Presumably, woodpeckers aren't as long-lived as some parrots, etc., which can live for many decades, so the bird couldn't be one born in the 50s, say, but is the sighting of a single bird really an indication of a sustainable population?
posted by anapestic at 9:29 AM on April 29, 2005

Now every ornithologist and bird-lover on the planet needs to lobby the members of the Arkansas General Assembly to enact legislation replacing the mockingbird with the ivory-billed woodpecker as their state bird.
posted by rwkenyon at 10:58 AM on April 29, 2005

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