Tuesday, September 26, 2006

IBWOs in Florida?

Rumors about an Ivory-billed Woodpecker announcement at the American Ornithologists' Union meeting in Veracruz, Mexico, have been flitting about for a few months. Today, the New York Times ran an article about the search in the Florida Panhandle, northwest of Panama City.
Geoffrey Hill, of Auburn University in Alabama, and Daniel Mennill of the University of Windsor, in Ontario, both biologists and ornithologists, say 14 sightings and extensive sound recordings “provide evidence that ivory-billed woodpeckers may live along the Choctawhatchee River in the Florida Panhandle.”
Their paper appeared in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology. An excerpt from the paper's Discussion section states:
Our observations, acoustic encounters, audio recordings, measurements of cavities, and analysis of feeding sign provide evidence that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers may live along the Choctawhatchee River in the Florida panhandle. In a 1-year period from 21 May 2005 to 19 May 2006, members of our search team saw birds that we identified as Ivory-billed Woodpeckers 14 times.
The N.Y. Times article cites ornithologist John Fitzpatrick as well as author/artist David Sibley.
Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell lab, who had consulted with Dr. Hill about the findings before publication, said, “They’ve got a lot of intriguing evidence.”

“This is a perfect illustration of the fact that we need to get a multigroup multistate, comprehensive range-wide search for this bird undertaken,” Dr. Fitzpatrick said.

David Sibley, author of “The Sibley Guide to Birds,” a critic of the report on the Arkansas bird, called the Florida report “intriguing”, but said it “really provides very little evidence for the existence of Ivory-bills there.”
No doubt more discussion will ensue.

P.S. Thanks, J.B.

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