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Ivory-billed Woodpecker (formerly updates) (1 Viewer)

MMinNY

Well-known member
From what I've read longevity is believed to be up to 15 years, although that seems to be speculative.

I'm not a big believer in wariness as a novel evolutionary trait. There are reports of wariness in the literature, and overall I'm inclined to think scarcity/low population density and the tendency to fly high for long distances after being flushed (see Tanner, p. 58) are sufficient to account for the difficulty in obtaining a photograph.

At the same time, I think the idea that the IBWO is not a widespread, adaptive, generalist species is based more on mythology than fact. While Pileateds are clearly more widespread, generalist and adaptive, the available evidence about IBWO diet indicates more of a generalist than is commonly believed. And the historic range was from South Florida to Ohio and from the Eastern Seaboard to the Missouri-Kansas border and North-Central Oklahoma (the last from memory, but if I'm correct, it's not in the cypress swamp region of OK, which is in the extreme Southeast corner of the state.) That's a substantial range, from temperate (with very cold winters) to subtropical, that includes quite a variety of habitats, even as between coastal and inland swamps.

Ilya Maclean said:
I've read through five pages on both forums, and although there are lots of differences of opinion, like Mike, I can't see any examples of intellectual dishonesty.

On wariness, does anyone know the average longevity of an Ivory-billed (or of other Campephilus)? It seems a little unlikely to have evolved to become wary in such a short space of time. I stand to be corrected on this if someone can find a relevant analogous species. Learned behaviour is another matter, but would IBWOs possess the phenotypic plasticity to modify their behaviour in such a way? Touche’s post about woodpigeons is interesting, but in my view not directly comparable. If the behavioural changes are due to evolutionary processes, these are much more likely to manifest themselves in a large population (with greater genetic diversity) with a relatively short life cycle. If it is phenotypic, then species must posses a high degree of phenotypic plasticity. Such plasticity is generally exhibited by widespread generalist species that can adapt readily to changing conditions. What little we know about the Ivory-billed woodpecker suggests that it isn’t really a widespread, adaptive, generalist species.
 

Ilya Maclean

charlatan
MMinNY said:
From what I've read longevity is believed to be up to 15 years, although that seems to be speculative.

I'm not a big believer in wariness as a novel evolutionary trait. There are reports of wariness in the literature, and overall I'm inclined to think scarcity/low population density and the tendency to fly high for long distances after being flushed (see Tanner, p. 58) are sufficient to account for the difficulty in obtaining a photograph.

At the same time, I think the idea that the IBWO is not a widespread, adaptive, generalist species is based more on mythology than fact. While Pileateds are clearly more widespread, generalist and adaptive, the available evidence about IBWO diet indicates more of a generalist than is commonly believed. And the historic range was from South Florida to Ohio and from the Eastern Seaboard to the Missouri-Kansas border and North-Central Oklahoma (the last from memory, but if I'm correct, it's not in the cypress swamp region of OK, which is in the extreme Southeast corner of the state.) That's a substantial range, from temperate (with very cold winters) to subtropical, that includes quite a variety of habitats, even as between coastal and inland swamps.

I take your point - it probably was more generalist than I supposed (the recent discussion of its preferred habitat type would support this). However, that’s more relevant when considering learned changes in behaviour (I’ve already explained why I think evolutionary changes are unlikely). I find it difficult to imagine how this might occur. It would imply that hunters took quite a few pot shots at the majority of surviving individuals and missed and they somehow learned to associate the presence of people with their imminent demise. This seems highly unlikely to me. Are there accounts of hunters taking pot-shots at IBWOS and missing (since the 1930s, when evidence suggests that at least some birds were relatively tame)?
 

MMinNY

Well-known member
I'm not aware of any such reports. . .there's the rumor of one being killed and eaten in the '50s, but that doesn't involve missing.

I think it's equally reasonable to view the reports of relative tameness as the exception, not the rule, as learned behavior, a product of habituation. That's certainly a strong argument in the case of the Singer Tract birds, and even with them, it seems at least possible that the high rate of nest failure reported by Tanner was, in part, a consequence of human disturbance. That doesn't exactly relate to wariness, but it may suggest a high level of sensitivity to human presence.



Ilya Maclean said:
I take your point - it probably was more generalist than I supposed (the recent discussion of its preferred habitat type would support this). However, that’s more relevant when considering learned changes in behaviour (I’ve already explained why I think evolutionary changes are unlikely). I find it difficult to imagine how this might occur. It would imply that hunters took quite a few pot shots at the majority of surviving individuals and missed and they somehow learned to associate the presence of people with their imminent demise. This seems highly unlikely to me. Are there accounts of hunters taking pot-shots at IBWOS and missing (since the 1930s, when evidence suggests that at least some birds were relatively tame)?
 

Ilya Maclean

charlatan
MMinNY said:
I think it's equally reasonable to view the reports of relative tameness as the exception, not the rule, as learned behavior, a product of habituation. That's certainly a strong argument in the case of the Singer Tract birds, and even with them, it seems at least possible that the high rate of nest failure reported by Tanner was, in part, a consequence of human disturbance. That doesn't exactly relate to wariness, but it may suggest a high level of sensitivity to human presence.

If that's the case, why are the birds not becoming more habituated now? Why do we hear complaints from searchers suggesting that the sceptics' desire for good photographic evidence is leading to IBWOs fleeing: "every time ivorybills are found, searchers arrive at the scene, and the birds are driven away"? This is the complaint that started the whole debate in the first place.

You can't have it both ways, surely!
 

MMinNY

Well-known member
I wouldn't say I want it both ways. . .We're talking about a relatively brief time period, and again the thrust of the complaint has not been that searchers arrive; it has been about the numbers of people and methods used by the searchers. Also, the public lands on which many of the recent sightings have taken place are used by hunters (who produce loud, frightening sounds, even if they're not targeting IBWOs). Finally, in the case of the Singer Tract birds habituation depended, in large part, on the birds' becoming accustomed to human presence around nest and roost sites.

I think a more relevant standard is the number of sightings. I haven't tallied it up, but I'd guess that there have been fewer than 100 reported by the organized teams since the post-Kullivan search efforts began. Let's add the free-lancers and people such as TRE, whose sightings have been taken at least somewhat seriously by the authorities, and say that there have been 200 potentially credible sightings in the past four years. I think that's a very generous figure. There are five claimed photos/videos that I know of, during that time period. Even if I accept, for the sake of argument, that none of them show living Ivory-Bills, I don't find it surprising that a very scarce, normally (not supernaturally) wary, long and high-flying bird that lives in difficult habitat has gone unphotographed thus far.


Ilya Maclean said:
If that's the case, why are the birds not becoming more habituated now? Why do we hear complaints from searchers suggesting that the sceptics' desire for good photographic evidence is leading to IBWOs fleeing: "every time ivorybills are found, searchers arrive at the scene, and the birds are driven away"? This is the complaint that started the whole debate in the first place.

You can't have it both ways, surely!
 

Mike Johnston

Well-known member
Talking of recent photos, is anybody going to bid for the photo offered on Ebay? Supposedly a juv. taken in January in Oklahoma. Starting bid of $100. Bargain. :bounce:
 

Mike Johnston

Well-known member
Out of interest, it was Kevin McGowan who first suggested the 'wariness' theory to the Cornell team. Here's his original post from the ID Frontiers list. It was Grizzlies in Colorado that first gave him the idea; however:

When I proposed this idea to my Cornell colleagues in 2002, they didn't
give it any credence. But subsequent events seem to have made at least
some of them change their minds.
 

Jane Turner

Well-known member
Mike Johnston said:
Talking of recent photos, is anybody going to bid for the photo offered on Ebay? Supposedly a juv. taken in January in Oklahoma. Starting bid of $100. Bargain. :bounce:

January juvvy makes it extra rare!
 

emupilot

Well-known member
John Mariani said:
Define "No," "All," and "recent."

About the "all" part, You mentioned 1971 (Lowery) and 2005 (TMGuy?). I think if you polled "skeptics" many would say the 1971 photo(s) look good. The provenance of the photos cast doubt on them when they were first presented, but I don't think there is any unanimity of belief either way.

About the 2005 photo. It's fake. In fact it's a bad fake, which is why I have no qualms about coming right out and say it's a fake. Are you saying it isn't? Otherwise that circular logic bit is a non sequiter.
Jane Turner said:
Seems no more circular logic than that of... people keep seeing so many unsubstantiatable (is that a word - well it is now!) views of the species it must still exist!


Are you seriously saying that you think TMguy's photo is of a real bird? The 71 pics seem really quite plausible to me. It not exactly RECENT though is it!

I'm glad at least a couple skeptics are open to accepting the 1971 photo. If someone by default assumes that all photos (including 1971) are fakes, then their views about any particular photo don't really account for much. Acceptance of that photo tends to blow holes in reasons to be skeptical of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker's continued existence, however. If it can be unconfirmed for 30 years before someone gets a photo, they why assume everyone seeing one now (thirty years later) is incompetent or a fraud?

There is no point in re-arguing tmguy's photo, as it is very unlikely anyone will be convinced. It seems like the skeptics assert it is a confirmed fake because... they say it is. I saw (and participated in) alot of the discussion, and I have corresponded with tmguy privately. Frankly, in my view the skeptics' arguments gave them less credibility than tmguy himself and reflected primarily their underlying bias. I too have a bias in that I do not discount Ivory-bill observations unless I have a good reason to do so, as I am not one to sit behind my keyboard and tell people in the field what they did or did not see.

Skeptics' arguments, as I recall them, included:
- that the bird was in an orange tree (though they later recanted and agreed with tmguy's assertion it was an oak)
- that the bird was too shiny (literature has indicated that the plumage is shiny)
- that the bird's tail ought to be braced against the tree (but given the bird's near horizontal position, physics indicates the center of gravity is over the feet)
- that the white secondaries doesn't look like photo X (while ignoring other photos which show the white pattern differently)
- as an extension of the above, the shoulder in the photo was used as a reference to examine the amount of white on the wing, but doesn't the mere presence of a black-on-black shoulder in the photo say something about whether it's a decoy, or at least the very high quality it would have to be?
- that the white stripe didn't start at quite the right point on the face, or it wasn't quite pointy enough

tmguy's account of events, both in public and in my private communication with him, is internally consistent and quite plausible. If someone can direct me to a reasonable argument (obviously not from a hard core skeptic) why the photo must be a fake (and let's not bother redoing the argument in this thread), I would be happy to read it. That at least a couple skeptics are more or less persuaded by the 1971 photo gives me reason to wonder if I've missed something about tmguy's photo, but as I say what I've seen has not reflected very well on the skeptics.

bitterntwisted said:
Can someone post a link to this photo? Thanks!

Graham

Here is a link to the photo in higher resolution as provided by tmguy.
 

Jane Turner

Well-known member
Was it ever established how high off the ground this pic was taken? To it looks more like a roadside hedge than the canopy of a large tree, but I'm not aware if there are other pictures (minus the bird) that show the location
 

emupilot

Well-known member
Jane Turner said:
Was it ever established how high off the ground this pic was taken? To it looks more like a roadside hedge than the canopy of a large tree, but I'm not aware if there are other pictures (minus the bird) that show the location

The bird was not very high up - as I recall tmguy reporting it, it flew left to right in front of his car when he was on a dirt track and landed in the tree near the car. The photo was taken pointed partly upward through the passenger side windows (may have been rolled down) of the car. The tree looks like an oak tree as tmguy claimed it to be, and of course the birds have been reported by others not far above the ground.
 
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Ilya Maclean

charlatan
emupilot said:
Skeptics' arguments, as I recall them, included:
- that the bird was in an orange tree (though they later recanted and agreed with tmguy's assertion it was an oak)
- that the bird was too shiny (literature has indicated that the plumage is shiny)
- that the bird's tail ought to be braced against the tree (but given the bird's near horizontal position, physics indicates the center of gravity is over the feet)
- that the white secondaries doesn't look like photo X (while ignoring other photos which show the white pattern differently)
- as an extension of the above, the shoulder in the photo was used as a reference to examine the amount of white on the wing, but doesn't the mere presence of a black-on-black shoulder in the photo say something about whether it's a decoy, or at least the very high quality it would have to be?
- that the white stripe didn't start at quite the right point on the face, or it wasn't quite pointy enough

tmguy's account of events, both in public and in my private communication with him, is internally consistent and quite plausible. If someone can direct me to a reasonable argument (obviously not from a hard core skeptic) why the photo must be a fake (and let's not bother redoing the argument in this thread), I would be happy to read it. That at least a couple skeptics are more or less persuaded by the 1971 photo gives me reason to wonder if I've missed something about tmguy's photo, but as I say what I've seen has not reflected very well on the skeptics..

Forget the details of the argument, just look at the photo - it just looks like a fake. As John says, not even a good one. Any person who's spent time in the field watching real birds could tell you that. Despite suggestions that skeptics are closed-minded, I'm actually completely open to the possibility that IBWOs still persist. My opinions just differ when it comes to what I consider good evidence to be and where the purdon of proof should lie. Even if, absolute definative proof of a real Ivory-bill were to emerge and I personally saw one well several times, I would still denounce that photo as a fake and wager a month's salary on it.
 

curunir

Well-known member
emupilot said:
The bird was not very high up - as I recall tmguy reporting it, it flew left to right in front of his car when he was on a dirt track and landed in the tree near the car. The photo was taken pointed partly upward through the passenger side windows (may have been rolled down) of the car. The tree looks like an oak tree as tmguy claimed it to be, and of course the birds have been reported by others not far above the ground.
Did tmguy ever mention what psychosis (plural) he was subject to?
 

Russ Jones

Well-known member
emupilot said:
I'm glad at least a couple skeptics are open to accepting the 1971 photo. If someone by default assumes that all photos (including 1971) are fakes, then their views about any particular photo don't really account for much. Acceptance of that photo tends to blow holes in reasons to be skeptical of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker's continued existence, however. If it can be unconfirmed for 30 years before someone gets a photo, they why assume everyone seeing one now (thirty years later) is incompetent or a fraud?

There is no point in re-arguing tmguy's photo, as it is very unlikely anyone will be convinced. It seems like the skeptics assert it is a confirmed fake because... they say it is. I saw (and participated in) alot of the discussion, and I have corresponded with tmguy privately. Frankly, in my view the skeptics' arguments gave them less credibility than tmguy himself and reflected primarily their underlying bias. I too have a bias in that I do not discount Ivory-bill observations unless I have a good reason to do so, as I am not one to sit behind my keyboard and tell people in the field what they did or did not see.

Skeptics' arguments, as I recall them, included:
- that the bird was in an orange tree (though they later recanted and agreed with tmguy's assertion it was an oak)
- that the bird was too shiny (literature has indicated that the plumage is shiny)
- that the bird's tail ought to be braced against the tree (but given the bird's near horizontal position, physics indicates the center of gravity is over the feet)
- that the white secondaries doesn't look like photo X (while ignoring other photos which show the white pattern differently)
- as an extension of the above, the shoulder in the photo was used as a reference to examine the amount of white on the wing, but doesn't the mere presence of a black-on-black shoulder in the photo say something about whether it's a decoy, or at least the very high quality it would have to be?
- that the white stripe didn't start at quite the right point on the face, or it wasn't quite pointy enough

tmguy's account of events, both in public and in my private communication with him, is internally consistent and quite plausible. If someone can direct me to a reasonable argument (obviously not from a hard core skeptic) why the photo must be a fake (and let's not bother redoing the argument in this thread), I would be happy to read it. That at least a couple skeptics are more or less persuaded by the 1971 photo gives me reason to wonder if I've missed something about tmguy's photo, but as I say what I've seen has not reflected very well on the skeptics.



Here is a link to the photo in higher resolution as provided by tmguy.


Geeze, that bird sure does look sketchy to me. If I had photographed a real live Ivory-bill and the photo looked like that I'd be very disappointed. I don't blame anyone for not accepting that photo, it doesn't look alive. Like everything else though, I wasn't there and I don't know for sure...just callin it as I see it.

Cheers,

Russ
 

Mike Johnston

Well-known member
Mike Collins has been given some private letters of John Dennis Sr which he has been revealing details of. What do folks make of this snippet?:

"In a 1985 letter, Dennis mentions that he intensively searched from 1966 through 1970 in South Carolina, Florida, and Texas. Based on this extensive experience, he concluded that it takes a couple of years to search out and find the ivorybill in only a single swamp."
 

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