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Ivory-billed Woodpecker still surviving in Louisiana? | Pre-print study plus film & additional comments

April 17, 2022

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

An ivory-billed woodpecker mounted specimen in Louisiana. Source: Eco-Watch

Below you will find a link to a not-yet-peer-reviewed pre-print of a study in Louisiana riverine swampland. The study by a consortium of agencies includes ten years of search effort. Hundreds of thousands of hours of trail camera photos, videos and drone photography were taken and examined. It makes for interesting reading, and includes photographs at the end, starting at page 26 (line 546). This link appeared on the nationwide chat line BirdChat.

Some comments and links from other birders posted to BirdChat over the following few days which are also of interest. They are at the bottom. Two articles and link to a video follow the quote from the study below.

From the paper, with permission from the lead author:

The phenotypically similar Pileated is one of the most unspecialized of the truly arboreal woodpeckers, while the Campephilus woodpeckers are characterized by pamprodactyly, a pedal morphology that enables the forward rotation of all four toes. The specialized modifications in the highly arboreal Ivory-billed Woodpecker are not so much in the structure of the toes as in the position of the legs. The feet are held outward from the body and are directed diagonally upward and sidewise, with both feet wide apart and more anterior relative to the body. Usually the angle between the tarsi and the horizontal plane is ≤45 ̊, and often seem to be pressed against the tree trunk. This is very different from the condition seen in most woodpeckers, as, for example, the Pileated Woodpecker, where the legs are held more or less beneath the pelvic girdle, the joints are fully flexed, and the tarsi are held well away from the tree trunk. This generally results also in a more obtuse angle of the intertarsal joint (where the leg bends between the tibiotarsus and the tarsometatarsus), and is evidence of the better scansorial adaptations of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker compared to the Pileated Woodpecker.

Multiple lines of evidence indicate survival of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana. Steven C. Latta, plus multiple authors and agencies.

This short article contains a 25-minute video that is well worth watching
Not Extinct After All: First ‘Widely Accepted Sighting’ of Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Since 1944
Eco-Watch | Cristen Hemingway Jaynes | 15 Apr 2022 | 2 Min read

Here’s a direct link to the 25-minute YouTube video mentioned above.

Another article on the recent paper.
Researchers claim to have sighted a bird not sighted since 1944 | A.J. Dellinger | 13 Apr 2022 | 3 min read
Lead paragraph:

If you ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the ivory-billed woodpecker is extinct. It’s been more than half a century since anyone has seen the iconic animal, which was last officially spotted in 1944. Extensive searches through the swamplands and forests of the southern U.S. that it was once known to occupy have come up empty, which led to the declaration that the bird was gone forever.

Not so fast.

Additional comments posted on BirdChat, in date/time order:

14 Apr 2022 07:25
The photos in the attached paper (from trail cameras) are hardly masterpieces but to my eye they are much more convincing than earlier purported evidence of surviving ivory-bills. If true (and let’s hope that it is) that means a small population survives near the Louisiana-Florida border. Note that this is a pre-print that has yet to be peer-reviewed.
RO, Mississauga, ON, Canada

Thu, 14 Apr 2022 12:26
Very interesting. Agree the amount of white on folded wing is consistent with IBWO. Guess we need more and better evidence, but intriguing.
GM, Silver Spring, MD

14 Apr 2022 18:52
Much as I admire the continued search effort, the biorxiv preprint really only shows what seem to be blurry photos of Pileated Woodpecker, with the apparent white wing ‘saddle’ being attributable to incorrect interpretation of the position of the bird’s body in relation to the tree. There’s some images here

A critique of the paper here

and also a thoughtful thread about why the bird is inevitably extinct here
JMC, Aberdeen, UK

17 Apr 2022
The authors are also relying on such things as leg position, so the white wing isn’t the only character they rely on. They also claim sight records and sound, so unless they are deliberately lying I would hope that their overall evidence is better than the photos in the paper. That said, I would agree that the evidence is inconclusive, though interesting.
RO, Mississauga, ON, Canada

  1. leonard kleinman permalink
    April 17, 2022 2:29 pm

    Don’t mean to be a bit picker, but FL doesn’t border LA.

    Len Kleinman



    • Chukar permalink*
      April 17, 2022 6:01 pm

      Conflated two locations. Another search location at another time was in Florida. Corrected.


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