3.18.2006

Campephilus Principalis Bogus



You may be healthily outside of the sometimes animated Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO) fracas, and if so you probably have not read Sibley et al's recent article in Science Magazine that doubts the validity of the "rediscovery." The authors begin, in argument-revealing sci.article style:

We reanalyzed video presented as confirmation that an ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) persists in Arkansas (Fitzpatrick et al., Reports, 3 June 2005, p. 1460). None of the features described as diagnostic of the ivory-billed woodpecker eliminate a normal pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). Although we support efforts to find and protect ivory-billed woodpeckers, the video evidence does not demonstrate that the species persists in the United States.

I'm also a major doubter that the IBWO survived the night of the 20th century. And I read eagerness to accept this bird back into our numbered lists of "wild birds" as fueled by desires to see "nature" as indomitably resilient. Also, among birdwatchers, there are strains of preference/dispreference for particular species that the hubbub about the IBWO falls neatly into, bugging me because if there's one thing I don't like about conservationism it's species selectivism.

This article attempts to counter the shadow of doubt cast by Sibley et al, indicating that the quest of (re)discovery the Lab of O has been waging will no doubt continue. Otherwise, what would they do with all the money they've been raising to identify, document, and sustain these one or two IBWOs?

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