Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Red flags in the Ivory-bill evidence

The body of Ivory-bill evidence contains a large number of "red flags" that challenge the hypothesis "Cornell found a living Ivory-bill in Arkansas in 2004". Under the alternate hypothesis "Cornell did NOT find a living Ivory-bill in Arkansas in 2004", every one of these red flags goes away.

Below, in red, is a list of "red flag" questions. I've included possible Believer and Skeptic answers for each question.

1. Why was the Arkansas "Ivory-bill" never clearly photographed?

Believer: Although Cornell glimpsed it about 18 times, it was just too elusive to allow a clear photograph.

Skeptic: It must have been seen well repeatedly, and probably photographed, but since it was obviously a Pileated when seen well, no one realized it was "Elvis".


2. In the sight records, why were the same four of five key Ivory-bill fieldmarks repeatedly not seen?

Believer: The glimpses consistently only allowed a view of the "diagnostic" extra white on the wing.

Skeptic: Because
a Pileated doesn't have the white dorsal stripes, the white neck stripe ending before the bill, the longitudinal black stripe on the white wing underside, or the pale bill itself. Note that an abnormal Pileated may well appear to show the fifth key Ivory-bill fieldmark--extra white on the wing.

3. In 18,000 hours of deployment, why did the ARUs capture kent-like call sequences only in an area where Blue Jays were observed giving kent-like call sequences?

Believer: The Arkansas Ivory-bills are almost entirely silent because the noisy birds were shot by collectors 60+ years ago. The Blue Jays (often seen in this area) probably learned the kent-like calls from the Ivory-bills (never seen in this area).

Skeptic: Because Blue Jays probably gave the kent-like call sequences recorded by the ARUs.

4. Why didn't the ARUs did not pick up distinctive double-knocks as described in "The Grail Bird"?

Believer: Maybe the Arkansas double-knock is a never-documented geographic variation of the Louisiana double-knock.

Skeptic: Because Pileateds and other woodpeckers do double-knock, but are unlikely to double-knock exactly in the BAM-bam Ivory-bill manner.

5. When the ARUs recorded "tantalizing sound evidence", why were only kents, or only double-knocks recorded, with no instances of kents in conjunction with double-knocks?

Believer:
The Arkansas Ivory-bills are almost entirely silent because the noisy birds were shot by collectors 60+ years ago.

Skeptic: Because Blue Jays make kent calls but not double-knocks, and because Pileateds and other woodpeckers double-knock, but don't make kent calls.

6. Why were no "kent" vocalizations reported during any encounter?

Believer: The Arkansas Ivory-bills are almost entirely silent because the noisy birds were shot by collectors 60+ years ago.

Skeptic: Because Pileateds don't produce kent vocalizations.

7. Why didn't anyone note the loud wooden wing noise of an Ivory-bill?

Believer: ?? Maybe the
Arkansas Ivory-bills fly silently because the noisy flyers were shot by collectors 60+ years ago?

Skeptic: Because Pileateds don't fly with a loud wooden wing noise.

8. Why were the sightings concentrated in such a small range, coinciding with an area where abnormal Pileateds were seen and photographed?

Believer: Maybe this "hot zone" is a travel route, although we've searched hard outside this zone with no luck.

Skeptic: Because observers probably mistook abnormal Pileateds in this area for Ivory-bills.

9. Why was the bird present in marginal IBWO habitat?

Believer: Maybe Ivory-bills have dispersed to the Cache River area because they have reached carrying capacity in the White River area.

Skeptic: Because it's good Pileated habitat.

10. Why were only single "Ivory-bills" glimpsed (they were known to travel in pairs)?

Believer: Maybe this single Ivory-bill dispersed
to the Cache River area because Ivory-bills have reached carrying capacity in the White River area.

Skeptic: Because abnormal Pileateds may not travel in pairs.


11. Over many decades, why did Arkansas duck hunters/fisherman/birders never definitively see an Ivory-bill?

Believer: The non-birders would never recognize an Ivory-bill (although non-birders did repeatedly lead researchers to Ivory-bills in the past). The avid birders among these outdoorsman, and the birders doing Christmas bird counts, simply didn't encounter the existing Ivory-bills.

Skeptic: Maybe the Ivory-bill no longer exists.


12. Why was no hard evidence such as feathers, eggshells, dead bird, etc ever found?


Believer:
Bad luck.

Skeptic:
Maybe the Ivory-bill no longer exists.

13. Why did the remote cameras capture Pileateds, but never Ivory-bills, at bark peeling sites?

Believer: Bad luck.


Skeptic: Maybe the Ivory-bill no longer exists.

14. Why hasn't anyone snapped a confirmed photo of an Ivory-bill in the US in 60+ years?

Believer: Since we can't get a confirmed photo, the bird must be supernaturally elusive. We also haven't spent enough time searching.


Skeptic:
Maybe the Ivory-bill no longer exists.

15. Why have they become so elusive and silent?

Believer: The Arkansas Ivory-bills are will-o-the-wisps because all the noisy and tame birds were shot by collectors 60+ years ago, and although they haven't been hunted since that time, they are all still stunningly wary and silent (even the fledglings).

Skeptic:
Maybe the Ivory-bill no longer exists.
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For more information, please check out the Ivory-bill Skeptic home page.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can gurantee the Ivory Billed Woodpecker exist, because of the finding in Arkansas. Cornell is the best of the best. I know for a FACT!!!! THE LORD GOD BIRD is still with us.

Anonymous said...

lord god bird? IT'S A FRIGGIN BIRD! The people searching for this stupid bag-o-feathers could be doing something useful with their time.

Anonymous said...

Asking questions then offering "believer's" answers which are generally absurd (for example, "the bird must be supernaturally elusive") does not give any credence to your position. In fact, it undermines it substantially. Your blog has begun to degenerate into pointless arguing rather than serious examination of evidence. You can justify this approach all day, but in the end, it remains pointless argument.

Tom said...

I agree that the "supernaturally elusive" idea is absurd. However, belief in that idea is quite fundamental in many actual attempts to explain our current 60+ year span without a confirmed record.

Regarding your "pointless arguing" comment--sorry, I'm not buying it. That's exactly the kind of vague thing that people say when they don't like your conclusions but are unable to refute your specific arguments.

Here's a chance to prove me wrong. Take a look at this link , then tell me specifically where my facts and logic are incorrect.

Ron said...

Have you seen the video purportedly showing an ivory billed woodpecker flying off through a stand of trees? The video is grainy and the glimpse of the bird is brief. The footage was captured not by a cameraman, but while the camera was mounted on a moving boat. This is the best evidence they have. The wing markings are distinctly unlike those of a pileated woodpecker, though the flight pattern seems to be that of a large woodpecker. I have not seen photos of the abnormally marked pileated woodpeckers. All said, I remain seriously skeptical. Take a picture of the damn bird! If they can't do that they're just spinning yarns.

Anonymous said...

The header on at the top of the page says all there is to be said on the issue until better evidence is obtained. (EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS REQUIRE EXTRAORDINARY PROOF !!)

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that the ivory-billed woodpecker has been reported in the same general region that the Fouke Monster (aka the Boggy Creek Creature) and the White River Monster supposedly prowl. If they are not reporting three-toed Bigfoot creatures and wayward elephant seals, someone is reporting long extinct woodpeckers. I don't believe there is an ivory-billed woodpecker in the swamps of Arkansas anymore that I believe the Patterson film shows a sasquatch walking in creek bed. And even if the bird still exists, who cares? All it will be is a novelty, another entry on a life list. People will cry about it as they did with the Thylacine, but it won’t really change anything. Reports will go on until the last ivory-billed, if there are any left, crashes into someone’s windshield and or is captured and dies in zoo just like the Passenger Pigeon and the Carolina Parakeet.

Anonymous said...

Tom Nelson's video of the "fleeing pileated" is quite illuminating. It shows that, as Jackson has said, a pileated uses its wings not merely to flap down, but to "paddle" through the air (as do many birds, to accelerate). This casts serious doubt on the assertion/assumption that the large blurs of white seen on the Luneau video are from the topwings of the bird. I have not seen defintive proof that the blurs of white in the Luneau video are from topwings. The use of stiff-winged models to try to renact the Luneau video was simply inncurate. Moreover, the photographic comparisons on the two woodpeckers on the Cornell site do not, to my eye, allow one clearly to distinguigh a fleeing pileated from an ivory-billed. Other thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Having now seen the analysis of the video on Cornell's site, I'm interested in Tom's response. The use of stiff-winged models did not make for convincing reenactments. On one key point, however, I think that Tom is mistaken -- concerning the black "smudge" that is purported to the tail of the bird when the flash of white first appears to the left of the tupelo. I think that Tom is looking at the wrong smudge. When watching the video, a very black feature quickly "moves" into view and then moves away -- certainly consistent with a tail, but not with a spot on the tree. The spot that Tom says remains by the tree is not the same black spot that Cornell asserts is the tail.

Tom said...

Paul--I agree that the moving black feature is not a smudge on the tree, but note that the feature moves into view in field 50, while in their Science paper, Cornell measured the wrist-to-tailtip size using field 33.3 (Figure S1 in their paper).

In my opinion, the black smudge in field 33.3 appears to be the same one that is still visible on the tree even after the bird flies away...

(Of course, the precise position of the tail is completely moot unless we know that the bird is perched, and unless we know the precise position of the wrist.)

Anonymous said...

Many avid birders were overwhelmed with joy when the Sapsucker Woods Boys made the, "We found it" announcement with the then Sec. of the Interior in attendance at their mega media press conference. However I became very concerned about the motives of the "finders" when I began to read their self-indulgent press releases. Their self promotion and attempts to make themselves into IBWP folk heros was troubling. I began to question their motives when weeks have now turned into months of "no follow-up" silence since their "find of a lifetime." All this has led me to the unscientific conclusion that egos took the place of sound post find science. Too bad since I wanted to be a believer!
PS:I have not renewed my subscription to their Living Bird mag.

slicmic said...

I too wait for definitive proof. However, I have observed Pileated Wooedpeckers in the Southeast for over 25 years. I have never seen wingbeats like those in the video.

Tom said...

"I have never seen wingbeats like those in the video."

But when you observe real Pileateds in the field, I would hope that your eyes are somewhat focused.

This out-of-focus clip of a known Pileated looks disturbingly similar to the Luneau bird:

Pileated Clip 11

Anonymous said...

I think that the video is FAR from conclusive, but the white very well could be from topwings. The claim of "supernaturally elusive" is absurd, as "more cautious and protective of hatchlings" would be far closer to the truth.

PS: You may want to abandon the Broad-Brush debunking techniques, as I can see right through them, though I am skeptical myself.

Anonymous said...

huge conversation about it here

www.birdforum.net

Anonymous said...

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof"--Carl Sagan

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"--Carl Sagan

Anonymous said...

I have reason to believe the IBWP still exists. I could waste my whole day explaining. Or I could post links.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory-billed_Woodpecker
http://www.fishcrow.com/winter06.html

I know someone from a nature conservancy who's seen one.

To the poster of comment #2:
If you're so pressed about how time is spent, why not get off the computer and stop criticizing those searching for the IBWP and spend your own time wisely.
Come to speak of it, I should be getting back to my homework :P...

Anonymous said...

Although I was initially caught up in enthusiasm over the Ivory Bill's "discovery", I too sensed something wrong from the beginning.

The area of Arkansas where the bird was reportedly found is not the Ivory Bill's original range. The habitat there is an "island" far removed from the deep south, only a small patch of swamp completely surrounded by flat fields of soybeans with an inadequate natural food supply for the bird.

If indeed an Ivory Bill was seen in Arkansas, it is more likely a specimen brought from Cuba (where the species still exists) and planted there in order to garner support for a governmental land grab.

We are living in the age of deception where our politicians and government think nothing of lying to us in order to pursue an anti-constitutional agenda. Everything from 911 and Iraq to property confiscation and the "patriot" act, Americans are now governed by a team of willing traitors supported by a daily series of "Hollywood" productions instead of truth in news.

By falsifying reports of an extinct Ivory Bill Woodpecker "discovered" in Arkansas, the feds accomplish two things. The government can seize lands and private properties declaring them off limits to the public and then develop, or harvest natural resources in whatever capacity it desires. If the illegal scheme is ever revealed, the public would always be untrusting and opposed to any future, valid environmental protections.

Beyond ruining our economy and destroying our reputation in the world, the thugs in Washington have not only polluted our children's minds and values, they have also stolen our fellow citizens' hearts, our health and our hopes for the future.

For more information on how environmental programs have been infiltrated by government interests with a more sinister and selfish agenda, research Agenda 21 (not from gov sources) and/or visit:

Taking Liberty


# # #

Anonymous said...

I reported a pair of these birds, lord god birds, to a mr. Jackson, giving a lecture in Memphis in the 90's, and he implied I was lieing. This pair was 25 miles from WRR in AR, think what you want folks, this bird was, and still may be here. I know what I saw, and Mr Jackson remembers me, don't you Mr Jackson?

Anonymous said...

I encourage anyone who is truly interested in the ongoing debate about the IBW to go to Mike Collin's website, www.fishcrow.com and view the "IBW in the Pearl River Basin" link. Take a look at the video frame-by-frame. Yes, the video is shot at a distance and swims in and out of focus, but I still find myself nodding my head in agreement with Collins. The large crested woodpecker in the video shows evidence of several IBW field marks.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been watching the pileated for over 40 years. I live in an area where I have access to hundreds of thousands of acres of unadulterated Savannah River Swamp Basin, and am an avid bow hunter. The stealth of my hunting method has allowed me to observe the abundant pileated population for an untold number of hours. I have studied the Arkansas video at length, and I can tell you that unless the pileateds in Arkansas are a different subspecies than what we have in South Carolina, that bird is NOT a pileated. I have seen the opinions that it could be some kind of unaturally-colored pileated that more closely resembles the markings of the IBWP, but the flight pattern is still all wrong. In all my years of observing these birds in the wild, I have NEVER seen one fly like that. This is something else. Maybe not an IBWP, but definitely NOT a pileated. Only time will tell. Maybe.

Anonymous said...

notepad's assertion that
"If indeed an Ivory Bill was seen in Arkansas, it is more likely a specimen brought from Cuba (where the species still exists)" is not that far-fetched; however, he may be a bit extreme (and paranoid) about the government's intentions for doing such a thing. If the American Ivory-Billed truly is extinct, any US re-establishment/restocking effort would most likely be fostered by the Cuban birds that still exist.

Anonymous said...

As a PhD scientist in another area, I'm stunned that a vague video is being used as "evidence" of a scientific discovery. Really - how is this any different that Big Foot or the Loch Ness monster? Why this was even published?? If the birds live in a fairly small area the researchers should have been able to find physical evidence of their existence - perhaps a feather or a nest? This should have been a prerequisite BEFORE publishing. (Why are smudges on a video even being discussed as evidence??)
I've watched the same thing happen with the meteorites and the alleged bacteria from outer-space. Any one that has spent time looking at iron that has been molten under an electron microscope knows that all sorts of patterns can emerge during the cooling process. This "evidence" has been used to fund billions for space exploration - the government can study the surface of Mars but it can't tell people about pollution from a local factory??
I think the Ivy League really needs to take a long, hard look at itself. Getting high SAT scores and having "prestige" doesn't give you creditability or integrity.
Didn't GW graduate from 2 Ivy League schools? Didn't he claim to know something was in Iraq that no one could find? Maybe the Ivy League needs to get back to substance and not appearances or deception????? It’s not about the position or titles you have - but the legacy you leave.

Anonymous said...

Whoever it is that is responsible for posting the www.fishcrow.com references. Please give it up. That site is a joke.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why some people don't believe Mike Collins he seems to have his facts straight to me. The size and behavior of that bird don't indicate Pileated to me. He has even had visits from two ornithologists people who have searched in Arkansas this year and some government agency officials who think his sightings and video are interesting. It's certainly very interesting. Anyway just because Kullivan saw a pair and they couldn't find them doesn't mean the two birds weren't there.

Anonymous said...

I think Mike Collins' evidence is very vague. I think the Luneau video has more authenticity to it. With all of the sightings and sounds that Mike has gotten, why has he not been able to keep a difital audio recorder on at all times and why are all of his videos of poor quality. All of his other pictures and videos seem to be in focus and of high clarity.

Don't get me wrong; I am not bashing the guy, but please provide verifiable evidence before you start announcing that you see and hear these on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

People, people! It's a joke! www.fishcrow.com is a practical joke. Deal with it!

Anonymous said...

You say this is a practical joke but who are you to say that, do you know Mike Collins. If you don't you can't say anything against him can you. After all the guys a Scientist who works for the government (NASA) and clearly has some ornithologists believing him. Julie Zickefoose (who knows a lot about Ivory bills for all the paintings shes done of them) thinks it's interesting, even notes "I keep seeing flashes of mantle strips" Pileateds DON'T have mantle strips!!!!!!!!

Anyway there have been numerous other credible sightings over the years including those by orithologists like Stoddard and Dennis, other scientists, hunters and fishermen who clearly saw something interesting that just can't be dismissed.

Sightings that I have heard about recently have occured in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the Green Swamp in NC when two fisherman saw a pair (one with a black head), and perhaps along the Hatchie by a government (FWS?) employee.

Somethings out there!!!!! Peter

Anonymous said...

Tom,

I just had to ask if you actually hope this beautiful bird exists, because with all the critical comments some people are throwing out now it seems that these people are wishing for Cornell's downfall/failure or something. I just have to say that my interest in the search for this bird is providing me with hope and literally might be keeping me from falling into complete distress (i.e. the behavior of some people upsets me greatly).

Thanks, P.J.V.

Anonymous said...

Having all your hope and all your self net worth in the return of Elvis is not healthy.

Instead, go out and work to save habitat for living species. There are many that need your help.

Anonymous said...

One way to (almost) tell for sure, would be to get Nancy Tanner out there. She is the widow of James T Tanner, who studied and recorded I-bills in the Singer tract. Mrs. Tanner accompianed her husband on many of these trips, and saw and heard I-bills. She would be recognizing the sound and sight of the birds, as opposed to simply hearing and seeing what others have described. For a definitive answer, go to one who knows.

Anonymous said...

Who knows what they are seeing down in Arkansas? I myself DEFINATELY observed, for a full ten minutes, a female red cockaded woodpecker in my backyard in suburban Chicago a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina.I figure it was blown in, like the Frigate bird that was photographed in Glen Ellyn( a suburb of Chicago) that was shown in the paper here around the same time.My point I guess is that maybe a Mexican Imperial woodpecker or other similar specie blew into town as they say.

Anonymous said...

As a person thoroughly aquainted with the Pileated, the most striking thing about the footage is not any markings. Indeed, the markings are vague and the picture too blurry. But what I find hard to discount is the deep midnight, velvet black markings and highly snow white markings. This has always been a noted trademark of the IBW, noted by people all the way back to Audobon's time. While in contrast the black of the Pileated does not ever appear extremely dark black, but more like a sooty dark gray. Not even a true black. I have seen Pileateds from Missouri, to Florida and back up to Massachusetts. And most places inside that geographical triangle. The black part of them never looks very black. At least not like in the footage. And if anything, the nature of both video and film cameras would have a tendency to make black colors lighter, not darker, especially on a gloomy day like the day the footage was captured. That black is so black it reminds me of the sheer velvet blackness of the Black Widow Spider, common where I now live in Idaho ( unfortunately ). I just never recall ever in my life seeing a Pileated with it's black parts that black.
It's just very striking to me, it stands out.

Getting to the white, it's brilliant, much like as has always been hitherto described by IBW witnesses of yesteryear. While the white on the Pileated is white but not that gleeming white!!

Jack Hadam said...

Nice blog with interesting feedback. I hope the bird's there. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that points to it. However, now that money and conservation efforts are at stake, we have a whole new ballgame. How much money do you think will come of this? At this point, we need lock-tight photos to justify the whole thing, and that's too bad. It is interesting that, all of a sudden, the lynchpin of evolutionary biology, VARIATION, seems to be a 4 letter word. It seems that there is a lot of variation in our Pileateds, right down to that beautiful leucistic PW seen in the same area. It would be interesting to see an article covering this topic... To be fair, maybe our stereotyping of Ivory-billed behavior is a mistake too. Think of the genetic bottleneck in any remaining population of IBWPs and the implications that genetic drift can have on such a small population. Anyway, I'm on the fence and it's very entertaining to see the evolution of scientific egos. Anyway, can anyone confirm that volunteers in the search are sworn to secrecy whether they saw it or not? If THAT is true, then it is indeed a bad sign.....

Anonymous said...

As far as some previous posters asserting that the IBW still exists in Cuba, says who?? Any info I have on the Cuban race is that it was indeed still known to exist after the mainland race was offically thought extinct. But I have read the last time birds were seen in Cuba was back in the 80s or early 90s!! If you have any sources that say otherwise, point me in that direction. I've never read anywhere that Cubans birds are still being reported by reliable experts.

Anonymous said...

I know the ivorybill exists, because I saw two in the green swamp in '04. A male and female flew past and landed in a tree just80 feet away.The female took off, but the male was in sight for eight to ten seconds. This was the sighting of the two fishermen in N.C. And, I know my birds well.These were not pileateds!We have found nest holes seven inches across, and have recorded double knocks and kent calls.