The Intersection

Ivory Billed Battle Continues

How naive I am. I thought it was settled that the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was back among us. I guess I was wrong. As an amateur birdwatcher, I also thought that the videotape provided of the bird was extremely convincing. But I guess I can’t be too certain any more, as a real expert ornithologist doesn’t buy it.

There’s a lot of hope involved here, and hope can easily cloud our judgment. But once again–though I’m not an expert–I don’t see how hope alone can explain the striking white outer wings of the bird in the video. My hunch, and it’s only a hunch, is still that this is the real thing.


  1. #1 Cameron
    January 24, 2006

    I remember when the sighting was first published and a number of ornithologists were skeptical; they then heard the audio tapes and were convinced it was the Ivory bill. What’s the new complaint?

  2. #2 Chris Mooney
    January 24, 2006

    Follow the link….

  3. #3 Mark Paris
    January 24, 2006

    I wonder how much is healthy skepticism and how much is a fear that a great hope will be dashed if it is discovered that the pileated woodpecker has not survived. Even so, more evidence is needed for this to be accepted without doubt.

  4. #4 chemparrot
    January 24, 2006

    Even if there are a few breeding pairs of ivory-bills in Arkansas, I’m pessimistic about their long term prospects. And nothing, but nothing is going to bring back the Carolina parakeet (or the passenger pigeon). Then again, when I was growing up, they told us the blue whale was probably extinct – and now there are an increasing number of sightings.

  5. #5 Inoculated Mind
    January 25, 2006

    “The strongest piece of evidence in the Science paper is a brief, blurry videotape that Dr. Jackson says shows a pileated woodpecker, not an ivory bill.”

    From what I understand of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, the videotape was not the strongest piece of evidence for the existence of extant members of the species. Many ornithologists were unconvinced by the videotape, but when it came to playing the recorded sounds at a meeting over at UCSB, the critics withdrew their paper. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology not only has these sounds, but an analysis of those sounds showing that the sounds closely match old Ivory-Bill recordings. They also have the Pileated Woodpecker sounds, which to me, a non-ornithologist, seem quite distinct.

    So if the videotape does indeed show a pileated woodpecker, this ornithologist needs to show how the sounds are not from an Ivory-Bill. I can’t wait until we have a confirmation of the Ivory Bill’s existance, maybe even this year, because I’d like to see stinging ad-hominem criticisms such as his get fed right back.

  6. #6 razib
    January 25, 2006

    in the sample space of all scientists you will always find skeptics. and sometimes people are really convinced for whatever reason, fred hoyle rejected the expanding universe until his death.

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