April 28, 2005


Woodpecker Thought to Be Extinct Is Sighted in Arkansas (JAMES GORMAN, 4/28/05, NY Times)

The ivory-billed woodpecker, a magnificent bird that ornithologists had long given up for extinct, has been sighted in the watery tupelo swampland of a wildlife refuge in Arkansas, scientists announced today.

The birders, ornithologists, government agencies and conservation organizations involved had kept the discovery secret for more than a year, while efforts to protect the bird and its territory went into high gear. Their announcement today provoked rejoicing and excitement among birdwatchers, for whom the ivory bill has long been a holy grail: a creature that has been called the Lord God bird, apparently because when people saw it they would be so impressed they would utter an involuntary "Lord God!"

"This great chieftain of the woodpecker tribe," as John James Audubon described the ivory bill - with its 30-inch wingspan, stunning black and white coloration with red on the male's cockade and a long, powerful bill - was once found in hardwood swamps and bottom land through the Southeast. As the forests were logged the numbers of birds decreased, until the ivory bill, the largest American woodpecker, faded from view. The last documented sighting was in Louisiana in 1944.

Though it appeared lost, the ivory bill haunted birders and ornithologists and others, and over the years there were dozens of reports of sightings. But each effort was unmasked as a hoax or wishful thinking - until Feb. 11, 2004.

On that date Gene M. Sparling III, an amateur birdwatcher from Hot Springs, Ark., sighted a large woodpecker with a red crest in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, about 60 miles northeast of Little Rock. Tim W. Gallagher at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, author of a new book about the ivory bill, "The Grail Bird," saw Mr. Sparling's report on a Web site, and within two weeks he and Bobby R. Harrison of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., were in a canoe in the refuge, with Mr. Sparling guiding them.

They just don't make extinctions like they used to.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 28, 2005 4:10 PM

Obviously some other bird realized that if it were to adjust its genes, it would get its personal protected wetland.

Posted by: Daran at April 28, 2005 4:17 PM

Good to know that they're still are peckers in the swamps of Arkansas, even with Clinton in New York now.

Posted by: Steve at April 28, 2005 5:28 PM

It's good to see the New York Times writing about 'peckers in Arkansas again. I guess it's been long enough since Clinton's impeachment.

Posted by: Steve at April 28, 2005 5:31 PM

"They just don't make extinctions like they used to."

How do you know?

Posted by: creeper at April 29, 2005 8:26 AM

Observation and Experimentation--you guys should try it sometime.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 8:44 AM

OJ apparently has no idea about the limitations revolving around proving a negative.

Logic--OJ should try it sometime.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 29, 2005 9:36 AM


I understand it perfectly well. It's what makes Darwinism a religion not a science--because the negative can never be proven it can never be disproven, despite the lack of any positive proof.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 9:42 AM

NPR has been going on about this bird for a couple of years now (previously, they went on an expedition into the La swamps to find one). I have to admit I don't get it. Are they particularly delicious?

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 12:13 PM


There are a good half dozen ways in which Evolution (as distinguished from your strawman "Darwinism") could be completely, emphatically, disproven.

What's more the lack of disproof acts as positive proof--not of Evolution's Truth, but of its truth (internally consistent, possessing definitive deductive consequences.)

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 29, 2005 1:29 PM

"the lack of disproof acts as positive proof"

You guys slay me.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 1:35 PM

We're down to 2 po`oulis in my neighborhood, one boy and one girl, but they don't seem to care for each other.

So they'll be extinct in a year or so.

We're the extinction capital of the world. My friend Bob Hobdy, who gets out a lot more than Orrin, discovered three species of tree during his years working for the state that were, by the time he found them, down to one individual each and not reproducing.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 29, 2005 6:22 PM

Intelligent Design in action.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 6:26 PM

"Observation and Experimentation--you guys should try it sometime."

An animal was thought to be extinct, but then it turned out it wasn't. This has never happened before? Which observations and experiments make you think that?

Posted by: creeper at April 30, 2005 8:16 AM