Thought the FL Birds group would be interested in reading this message by
"North American Birds" Editor Ned Brinkley of the American Birding


-----Original Message-----
From: Wallace Coffey [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Friday, April 29, 2005 10:49 AM
To: TN-birds
Subject: [TN-Bird] Ivory-bill's wariness may be its best protection

The following message was posted to VA-Birds today by:
North American Birds Editor Ned Brinkley of the American Birding Association
It contains interesting suggestions and insight.
Let's go birding.......
Wallace Coffey
Bristol, TN
--------------------------BEGIN FORWARD MESSAGE----------------

Jim Beard makes a good point about the imperative not to harass the Arkansas

Ivory-billed.   I'm sure that the federal authorities who will be working on

the conservation of the bird and the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas
will see to it that no one bothers the bird (whose actual whereabouts are
unknown in any case) - over $30 million has been pledged for this already.
bird managed to elude searchers for many months at a time, and its wariness
be its best protection, in truth.

There are many places in the Southeast where birders essentially never visit

- large swampwoods and adjacent pine savannahs in western Florida, in
South Carolina, in Louisiana, and even in Mississippi - where maturing
forests, sometimes with hurricane or fire damage (a boon for large
provide nearly ideal habitat for Ivory-billeds.   Some of these areas have
sight reports of the species.   Aside from the Pearl River area of Louisiana

(where a pair of Ivory-billeds was reported 1 April 1999), however, few such

areas have been checked by people who might recognize the species.

The next issue of North American Birds (a publication of American Birding
Association - - see the website for information on
Ivory-billeds) will have a large feature article on the Arkansas
Ivory-billed, with
information not presented elsewhere, but also at least one piece on
for Ivory-billeds in other areas.   There will also be information on
practices and principles in the context of searches for this species.   I
think that while we have an obligation not to harass any endangered species,
should consider the possibility - think of the Louisiana reports over the
40 years - that we might also have an ethical call to seek out this species
areas that might well harbor more of them.   The southern swampwoods,
of their difficulty of access and their general lack of other 'top-shelf'
species, are among the most neglected and underbirded of North America's
great habitats.   Perhaps the Arkansas bird will begin to change this.

So it is to be hoped that people will take interest not just in 'Elvis' (as
searchers came to call the shy Arkansas bird) but also take interest in the
possible persistence of this species in other areas.   After all, there have
numerous sight reports of the species in the second half of the twentieth
century; it's just that no credible photographs have been produced.   In the

Arkansas case, over 23,000 hours of field searching produced 3 seconds of
and barely 30 seconds of visual contact with the bird!   So luck is
involved.   But perhaps Cornell, or TNC, or both, can start to coordinate
birders in ethical, logical search teams to look for this species elsewhere.

Birders, after all, have not just extraordinary motivation to see an
we also have a lifetime of field skills and instincts and patience born of
practice, all necessary to see an Ivory-billed before it sees us (almost a
prerequisite for a photograph, it would seem!).   Sight reports are useful,
course, but to save a swampwood from the axe, proof in the form of a
(or, better still, a clear videotape) is
most desirable.

I've heard from scores of friends and colleagues that they wept on hearing
and reading the news or seeing the video evidence.   What brought tears to
eyes yesterday was when the bird's finder, Eugene Sparling of Hot Springs,
Arkansas, stood at the noontime press conference in Washington, DC to be
recognized, and the gathered reporters erupted in the most thunderous
applause and howls
of accolade I'd ever heard.   He has devoted nearly every waking moment of
his life since seeing this bird to helping coordinate searchers and to
protecting the bird.   He is a humble, kind gentleman who richly deserved
that tornado
of applause that day, as did everyone who has worked so hard over the past
year and two months on this project.   The "Inventory Project", as they
their work, is just the beginning, and we birders and people who love the
habitats and avifauna of this land are called, I think, to come to the aid
this species as best we can.   Donations to the preservation of the Arkansas

Big Woods ( are something we can all do, and should do.
I think, too, we should offer our skills and creativity in the service of an

expanded search: family vacations in the southern swamps - why not?   An
of birders and people knowledgeable about birds will be needed to find
Ivory-billed or perhaps a pair.   For real conservation of the species to be

possible, conservationists will need to know first where these birds are
still hanging on.   I'm willing to bet that this century holds a few more
surprises yet.

Ned Brinkley
Cape Charles, VA
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