Multiple Sightings of Long-Lost Woodpecker Reported

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  • This Science paper will be freely available to the public on Thursday, April 28 at 11:30 a.m. ET at www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1114103.
  • A press release from AAAS is available here.
  • A press release from Cornell University is available here.
  • A video news release from Cornell University is available here.

Observers in eastern Arkansas have reported at least eight independent sightings of a bird that appears to be an ivory-billed woodpecker, a species widely thought to be extinct. A video clip of one bird, though blurry, shows key features, including the size and markings, indicating that the bird is indeed an ivory-billed woodpecker, according to John W. Fitzpatrick and coauthors. One of the world’s largest woodpeckers, the ivory-billed woodpecker is one of six North American bird species suspected or known to have become extinct since 1880. The last conclusive sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker in continental North America occurred in 1944, although anecdotal reports have continued to this day. The sightings, each by a different person or team, occurred during the last two years within three kilometers of one another in the “Big Woods” region of Arkansas, which includes swamps and bottomland hardwood forests. Despite extensive search efforts, the authors were not able to determine how many individual birds were actually encountered. By magnifying and analyzing individual frames of the video clip, Fitzpatrick and his colleagues identified the bird as an ivory-billed woodpecker based on its size, specifically the distance from wing to tail, and the black and white markings on its wings and body.

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Image courtesy of John A. Ruthven
 

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