Update: Search Finds No Conclusive Evidence of Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Kenneth Gautreaux  |  5/4/2005 1:49:11 AM

Researchers at Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab in Ithaca, N.Y., recently finished analyzing audio recordings and have determined that there is no conclusive evidence of the ivory-billed woodpecker’s existence in Louisiana. The last documented sighting of the bird was in Tensas Parish in 1942.

Audio recordings made in January and February during an official 30-day search undertaken in the lower Pearl River basin in southeastern Louisiana revealed no evidence of the ivory-billed woodpecker. This area was chosen because of a reported sighting in 1999 by an LSU forestry student and because the area exhibited suitable habitat for the bird. Researchers had hoped one of the audio recordings had captured the distinct tapping sound made by the bird. Further analysis determined that the sounds were probably gunshots and not the bird.

According to Vernon Wright of the LSU AgCenter’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, the findings do not mean the bird is extinct. Wright says further searches are being discussed in other places such as the Cat Island area in West Feliciana Parish, the Atchafalaya Basin and along the Sabine River south of Toledo Bend. These searches would not begin until late fall.

Wright is trying to secure use of the Cornell Lab’s Acoustic Recording Units (ARUs) for these searches. If the woodpecker is in a search area, the ARUs could record its call or the tapping sound made by the ivory-billed when it removes bark from a tree. The birds are more vocal during the mating season and are more likely to be captured by the ARUs. Wright says the birds’ mating season usually begins in November.

Craig Gautreaux

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