Ivory-bill Decoys

Summer 2005

"Well I got tired of chasing the bird around the swamp and decided to try to bring the bird to me," said Bobby Harrison, long-time ivory-bill chaser and professor of art history at tiny Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama. Harrison and Tim Gallagher saw an ivory-bill fly in front of their canoe on February 27, 2004.

Bobby Harrison carved several life-sized decoys from tupelo wood and painted them to represent male or female birds. As Harrison says, "All it takes is a spot of paint to change the gender." He then selected an area he thought might be a good flyway for an ivory-bill and mounted a decoy on the side of a tupelo or cypress tree about 15 feet up from the surface of the water. Then two remote cameras were mounted a distance from the tree and trained on the decoy from different angles. It was painstaking work to get everything set up.

Then Harrison waited. Sitting in canoe completely obscured by camouflage, he stayed at least 200 feet from the decoy. At the end of four hours he retrieved his cameras and the decoy, and labeled his tapes so he could watch them in his motel room that night.