Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Extinct Or Not?: The Case Of The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Behavior, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity, Nature of Science, Extinction, Global Change

Ed Hessler

Does the ivory-billed woodpecker still exist? This decision now hinges "on drone footage" writes Jim Williams in his column in The Star Tribune (2.22.2023). If you subscribe and missed it, the column from "On The Wing" titled "Extinct of Elusive?" is accessible.

Following the announcement of the Fish and Wildlife Service (NWS) on "its intent to remove the woodpecker from the endangered species list and declare it extinct," drone footage "was given, writes,  which "could be considered the best evidence of survival collected yet." This effort is the result of "2590 hours" of drone flight, "864 hours of video which after editing...produced just more than a minute of the bird in flight and perched in a Louisiana woodland, location secret."

Williams reviews some reasons why there are no known photos which include the wary behavior of the bird - "spooks very easily" - and the requirements of photography such as camera positioning and continuously keeping the proper focus. "There are many photographs...There are no focused photos...."

Williams directs our attention to the website Project Principalis, noting that the project name is from the scientific name of the ivory-billed woodpecker, Campephilus principalis. There you can watch the footage. These are found under "New Unenhanced Crops of Drone Clips at Full Speeds." The web site is the result of considerable effort and invites exploring

When viewing the video, Williams notes one thing to look for is when viewing is its "behavior after landing...(called) hitching movement."

Sometime this spring the FWS will announce its decision.

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