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Around the Lab

Ivory-bill Update

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by Pat Leonard

This past summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Plan, based on the results of five years of systematic, range-wide searches funded by federal agencies, NGOs, and private donations. The plan outlines a general course of action to be taken if and when ivory-bills are found, though specific actions will be developed on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether the discovery is made on public, private, state, or federal land.

The searches and habitat surveys, conducted from 2004 to 2009 in parts of 10 states in the bird’s former range, also form the basis for a new book being written by leaders of the Cornell Lab’s Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Project and partner organizations. The book will update James Tanner’s ground-breaking ivory-bill research done in the late 1930s and early 1940s when he was a graduate student at Cornell.

“We have so much more detailed information now about the current status of the habitat, plus details about how the searches were done and analyses of evidence,” says Martjan Lammertink, the Cornell Lab’s ivory-bill project scientist. “We’ll have an analysis of historical reports of the bird and draw some conclusions about the current status of the ivory-bill.”

Project director Ron Rohrbaugh’s conclusions about the status of the woodpecker are bittersweet. “It is not time to declare the ivory-bill extinct,” he says. “But we have to let the science guide us. I don’t believe that recoverable populations of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers exist in places where there has been a significant, systematic search. Yet, it is possible that a small population still holds on in places that are unsearched or under-searched.”

The ivory-bill book is due out next year. The complete Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Plan can be downloaded from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website: http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/recovery_plan/100719.pdf.

Living Bird Magazine

Autumn 2010

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