Conclusions

The video clip shot by David Luneau on 25 April 2004 provides a 4.5-second glimpse of a large woodpecker flying away from his approaching canoe. Although resolution of the bird is less than ideal, this video clip does contain a substantial amount of information when enlarged and put through a detailed, frame-by-frame examination. A number of videos of known Pileated Woodpeckers are available for comparison and a careful reenactment experiment was carried out. Taken together, examination of these videos convinces us unequivocally that the hypothesis that the bird in the video is a normal Pileated Woodpecker can be eliminated. Moreover, several traits of the bird in the Luneau video--size, wing shape, flight pattern, wingbeat frequency, absence of observations--also allow us to eliminate the hypothesis of a leucistic (“piebald”) Pileated Woodpecker having mostly white wings and a white back. Indeed, if it were a piebald Pileated Woodpecker, we would have gotten to know it quite well over the past two years considering the small home ranges of southern Pileated Woodpeckers and because of all the time spent in the region where this video was shot. A few molting pileateds showing some extra white on the wing have been spotted in the Big Woods region of Arkansas. Searchers also found a leucistic Pileated Woodpecker in February 2006, which was obviously distinctive from an ivory-bill (see "White Pileated Woodpecker Documented in the Big Woods"). We know of no photographs or specimens of Pileated Woodpeckers from anywhere in their range that exhibit extensive, symmetrical white plumage patterns approaching the bird in the Luneau video.

As summarized below, traits of the bird in the Luneau video are entirely consistent with its being an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. We remain convinced that this video provides documentary evidence confirming the numerous sight records of Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge between February 2004 and February 2005.

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