Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Pearl River
In April 2005, the most exciting news in the history of wildlife conservation came from Arkansas, where a
team led by Cornell University
documented an Ivory-billed Woodpecker that was observed several times. There had been many sightings over the years, including David Kulivan’s report of a pair in the Pearl River
along the southern border between Louisiana and Mississippi in 1999, but sightings had been sporadic since the 1940s and usually lacked evidence or multiple sightings to back them up. The extreme wariness of the Arkansas bird suggested that populations of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers could be hiding out in other bottomland forests. Others have gotten out in the field to search for Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, including a
team led by Auburn University that found Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Choctawhatchee River in Florida.
Having heard “kent” calls on the Mississippi side of the Pearl River in February 2000, where
unusual bark scaling was discovered several years later, I knew that Kulivan’s report was legitimate and that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were waiting to be documented in that area. Since starting a search in November 2005, I have had ten sightings and obtained video footage (associated with sightings) in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
A documentary of my work in the Pearl River is available on YouTube.
Data from two of the videos are published in
an article in the Journal of the
Acoustical Society of America. The article is under copyright of the Acoustical Society of America, but this pdf may be downloaded
for personal use (any other use requires prior permission of the publisher). Supplemental material is available
here (click on readme.html). I obtained interesting video footage (not associated with a sighting) in
2009. Daily logs are available for the 2006,
2013, and 2014 search seasons.
Most of the searching involved kayaking and hiking through bottomland forests, but I spent some time observing from tall cypresses that
provide unobstructed views over the treetops.
I regard a sighting as definite only if all doubts are eliminated by observing multiple characteristics (such as size, fieldmarks, flight or flap style, kents, double knocks), having multiple sightings in the same area over a short period of time, or obtaining data that support the sighting. I have had nine definite sightings in Louisiana (2-2-06, 2-16-06, three on 2-17-06, 2-20-06, 3-10-06, 2-16-08, 3-29-08) and one definite sighting in Florida (1-19-07). Two of the times I heard kents in Louisiana (2-16-06, 2-18-06) were definite encounters.
Michael DiGiorgio has painted Ivory-billed Woodpeckers into photographs in order to bring to life some of my best sightings. Some of my favorite photos from the Pearl have been converted into artwork. An artist has produced cartoons based on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s ability to frustrate bird watchers and
supposed need for old growth forest.
Bird Watching Trip Reports
Photos from Manu National Park: Peruvian Amazon
Iguazu Falls: Near the Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay border
Photos from the Four Corners area
Photos from Big Bend National Park
Photos from Yellowstone National Park
Favorite Photo: Rio Marañon (a branch of the Amazon) near Balsas, Peru
Wakefield Park: A Hotspot for Mourning and Connecticut Warblers
Venus transits the Sun (June 8, 2004)
Rubik’s Cube and other puzzles