‘Tis the season—for ivory-bill searching

December 2006

In 2006-07, searches will again focus on the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas and on several states throughout the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s historical range. The full-time staff has arrived in Arkansas to begin searching and make preparations for the arrival of volunteers in early January. Volunteers  were a key component of last year’s search and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will tap into their energy and enthusiasm again this year. Volunteers will arrive in cohorts of 10 and stay for 2 weeks, helping the full-time crew search key areas, such as the White River National Wildlife Refuge.

This season the Lab is again collaborating with several Arkansas partners, including Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon Arkansas, and Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The primary goal—to find and document ivory-bills—remains the same. This season the Lab’s researchers will also be collecting data to help a team at the University of Georgia develop a model that will guide the search by indicating when an area has received adequate search effort.

One of this season's exciting new initiatives is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s mobile search team. This team of four experts is traveling the southeast to states where other organized searches are taking place. In addition to assisting those searches, the team will be assessing the probability that ivory-bills might still live in the region, and providing technical assistance to state and federal agency biologists who are heading up the searches.

The mobile search team is in South Carolina right now and will be working with local crews through the beginning of January. You can keep track of their activities each week via the travel log, posted on this web site.

Other states conducting searches this season include Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The Lab will help states by loaning equipment such as autonomous recording units and time-lapse video camera systems. Throughout the search, the Lab will maintain its database of public reports of ivory-bill sightings and pass along any good leads to the appropriate state search teams.

"Searching for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has finally blossomed into a long-overdue, systematic national effort spanning all the big forests of the Southeast where the species could persist," says John Fitzpatrick, the Lab's director.

 "We'll never know if ivory-bills persist outside of Arkansas unless we undertake systematic searches of key areas, a task that should have been done decades ago," said Ron Rohrbaugh, director of the Lab's Ivory-billed Woodpecker Research Project.

Photos, top to bottom: Painting of a male Ivory-billed Woodpecker (John Schmitt); autonomous recording unit (Jason Koski); boating the bayou (Jason Koski); ivory-bill sign (Jason Koski); large tree cavity (Larry Newman); flooded forest (Bill Holliday); canoe on the bayou (Larry Newman).

Photos © Cornell Lab of Ornithology