Breaking: Video supplied as proof of Ivory-billed Woodpecker


On October 17, 2020, Bobby Harrison was in a canoe on a southern waterway heading again to his automobile when a big chicken flew in entrance of him, turned, after which flew down the channel and out of his sight.

He says he knew instantly that the chicken was an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Harrison has been looking out southern swamps for the species for greater than 20 years, and it was an Ivory-bill sighting he had in 2004 with former Dwelling Fowl editor Tim Gallagher that set off a giant seek for the chicken led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. That search effort resulted in early 2007, and Harrison has continued on the lookout for higher proof on his personal ever since.

And that’s what he says he obtained with the October 2020 encounter. He was recording with a Sony video digicam when the chicken got here into his view. The sighting lasted 9.8 seconds, and the video is, Harrison admits, not of top of the range. As a result of it occurred so quick, he couldn’t zoom in on the chicken, for instance. He by no means meant to make the video public, however finally he did have an opportunity to “present it to some folks from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They had been impressed with it, [and] thought it was maybe the very best proof they’d seen.”

Then, after FWS proposed in September 2021 to delist the chicken “as a consequence of extinction,” Harrison knew he needed to present the company the video formally. He says the video is “proof” of the chicken’s persistence, however given its low high quality, he doesn’t name it “proof.”

In early July 2022, FWS stated it was giving itself six extra months to determine what to do in regards to the delisting proposal and that it was opening a public-comment interval for 30 days. “Recognizing substantial disagreement amongst consultants concerning the standing of the species, the Service is extending the deadline to permit for added time to evaluation info,” a press launch stated.

Harrison created a PowerPoint presentation to elucidate a number of particular person frames within the video which are in keeping with Ivory-bill subject marks and don’t match different considerably related birds, equivalent to Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Pintail, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Muscovy Duck, and others. On July 18, Harrison introduced the PowerPoint to FWS officers, which added it to the general public document. (That video will likely be posted in a day or two on a authorities internet web page.)

To succeed in the broader public, Harrison agreed to an unique interview with BirdWatching. He and I met over Zoom on July 14, and he instructed the story of his sighting and confirmed the PowerPoint. I agreed to attend to submit our interview till he spoke with FWS. (Apologies for a technical glitch or two within the video and for the second the place my canine barks.) The total video is about 53 minutes lengthy, and the PowerPoint presentation begins on the 7:37 mark. That is finest considered on a pc or different giant display (not a cell machine).

In our dialogue, Harrison mentions the “Kulivan sighting.” He’s referring to a report in 1999 by David Kulivan, then a forestry scholar at Louisiana State College, of two birds, doubtless Ivory-bills, within the Pearl River Wildlife Administration Space in Louisiana. You’ll be able to learn extra about that occasion in this text that we printed in 2002.

Different birds thought of

After the interview, I requested Harrison if the chicken in his video might be a Purple-headed Woodpecker, which he doesn’t focus on within the PowerPoint. At about 10 inches lengthy, the Purple-headed is about half so long as the 19.5-inch Ivory-bill, and it has considerably related plumage. On the adults of each species, the main edges of the wings are black, the trailing edges of the wings are white, and the tails are black.

Harrison stated he thought of Purple-headed, in addition to Pileated Woodpecker and several other geese (which he discusses within the video).

“I requested myself these questions as a result of I knew the skeptics would ask these questions,” he says. “None of those birds — geese, Pileated, or Purple-headed match the chicken within the video. The Purple-headed was simply dominated out for a couple of causes. It has a white underside and an grownup has a purple head, and the chicken within the video has a black head and black physique. The velocity of the chicken within the video exceeds the velocity of a Purple-headed Woodpecker. And Purple-headed Woodpecker has a white rump. The chicken I noticed had a black rump separating the white secondary flight feathers. Lastly, the chicken I noticed was a lot bigger than a Purple-headed Woodpecker.”

What occurs subsequent? Maybe in the course of the public-comment interval somebody will submit a high-quality, clear-as-day photograph or video of an Ivory-bill. Failing that, we’ll wait to listen to what the Fish and Wildlife Service decides in regards to the endangered standing of arguably essentially the most iconic chicken in North America.

Learn our publication!

Join our free e-newsletter to obtain information, images of birds, attracting and ID suggestions, and extra delivered to your inbox.

Signal Up for Free



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here