The Pearl River Expedition, Louisiana, 2002

Paving the way for monitoring ivory-bills using sound

In 1999, David Kulivan, an undergraduate forestry major at Louisiana State University, was hunting turkeys in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area when he observed two large woodpeckers interacting with each other on a nearby tree. He watched them for 10 minutes and knew they were nothing he had ever seen before. He had a camera in his game bag but didn’t take it out to snap a photo.

Kulivan later described the birds in great detail to biologists and ornithologists at Louisiana State University, many of whom believed Kulivan had observed two Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Several major searches of the Pearl River area were conducted over the next couple of years. In early 2002, Zeiss Optics financed a month-long expedition to the Pearl River area. The search team included scientists and expert birders. Bioacoustic researchers from Cornell hung 12 autonomous recording units (ARUs) throughout the search area, hoping to capture kent calls or double knocks in a digital recording.

For a more complete description of the 2002 Pearl River expedition and the detection technology that was employed, see the Summer 2002 BirdScope article. Readers of the Lab's eNews encouraged us to continue the search (see their letters) despite the lack of success in 2002.