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Ivory-billed Woodpecker: takeoffs with deep and rapid flaps + wing noises (1 Viewer)

400+birder

Well-known member
United States
Hi 400,
I have taken photos of a few big woodpeckers. Two of those were Campephilus. It wasn't difficult, and that is the point some are making. It makes sense that Campephilus would share similar traits. If one had the bird in sight, why couldn't a photo be taken? However, your point that they may not behave as other Campephilus is also understandable. The birds I found and photographed did not have the history of IBWO. These birds were not hunted and collected to extinction (or close to it, as some say). Also, the habitat was entirely different.
You're right that some on Birdforum, for more than a decade, say that since other Campephilus are easy to image, IBs must be. That is obviously a logic mistake. You're right that hunting pressure selected for the more wary birds (proven in other species), and I would add that this can happen quickly. And, the habitat is different. For example, imagine trying to image your birds at 100 meters, in dense woods. And imagine not knowing where they were within tens of thousands of acres.
On this thread, it has been suggested that I am not a 'real birder' and that not calling someone a liar for lack of proof has no place in science. I'm afraid I'm going to give my detractor(s) some more ammunition: I don't find it impossible that IBWO might not behave the same way as other Campephilus because I believe that birds can change behaviours when needed. I think the parents could instill a fear of humans to their fledglings (and the fledglings do the same). I think it's feasible that IBWO might have become more elusive than other large woodpeckers.
If someone writes to you and that's one of the first thing they say, "not a real birder," that's the best they can do possibly and unfortunately it sometimes takes decades or more to learn to be better.
I don't think it's impossible that a few might have stayed hidden for many years; stranger things have happened. There are still large areas of nearly inaccessible habitat. However, there were sincere efforts made to find this bird by very competent people. They checked for nest sites, DNA, they sent out calls, they went to quite a few areas that could have sustained the bird. It was a thorough search. I'm not saying it's impossible that a few birds aren't still out there. I'm not going to call people liars or fakes because they believe they saw one, and I'm not saying you shouldn't go out with your gear. I think it's great you're going to go out and see for yourself. I don't think any understanding of nature can be accomplished from a chair in front of a fire. I'm just saying that, sadly, the bird is probably gone. Still, stranger things have happened, and they sometimes happen because some people had a little hope and, dare I say it,...faith. Good luck.
There were sincere efforts. And they all got some evidence. Here is part of a USFW letter I recently sent--

"Since the year 2000, eight expeditions that have searched for the Ivory-Bill have had encounters. These were by professionals with advanced degrees, and professional organizations. They have obtained documentation. Critics of the documentation and evidence have taken the stance of being cautionary (as they should be) but NOT dismissive. Close study of the evidence shows that the criticisms have been addressed.

Cornell Ornithological Lab—sightings and audio evidence with some audio sonogram matching to known IB kents

David Luneau—encounter with video that shows IB field marks

Auburn University—sightings and video with analysis that shows IB field marks. Extensive audio of double-knocks and kent sonograms that match IB

Mike Collins—sightings and three separate videos with morphometric analysis that show IB field marks. Audio analysis of kent sonograms and double knocks that match IB. Math-based evidence published in peer-reviewed journals

Bobby Harrison—video of bird with field marks matching IB

National Biodiversity Parks—multiple encounters with extensive datasets

Project Coyote—sightings and multiple still images of birds that match IB. Guy Luneau math analysis of image. Kent sonograms that match IB. This group is now called Project Principalis, and closely affiliated with the National Aviary in Pittsburgh PA.

Mission Ivorybill—most recent sightings of bird. Planning new search methods which are more in line with still-hunting. New camera systems are being developed, building on the idea that seven of the last putative IB images are from video, but with poor resolution.

These are EIGHT separate efforts, and in EIGHT different locations, that have found evidence for the bird since 2000. The most recent was a visual sighting this year."

And in case you have not seen this, and because it's really Mike Collins's thread, here is what I consider the best evidence, especially at the 33 minute mark and after--

:) John
 

400+birder

Well-known member
United States
If they do exist, why hasn't there been a single high quality image or video of one? So much effort has been spent looking, well funded effort. All that effort and all we have is a few short, very low quality videos (I haven't seen the Oct 2020 video). The burden of proof is on those who say they have seen it. Give me one clear image, one video where it is completely clear that it is an Ivory Billed and not a Pileated.

The argument from the believers is that the bird is unbelievably wary of humans due to the pressure that humans have placed on them. However, the last confirmed ones in the Singer tract were approachable right until the end. In 1956 William Rhein was able to catch high quality footage of the Imperial Woodpecker from the back of a mule on a mountain trail. At that time the Imperial Woodpecker was under tremendous pressure including being shot on sight, and he was still able to grab undeniable footage from the back of a mule using 1950s video technology. You're telling me with everything we have available in 2021 we can't get one single high quality image, or even audio recording, in a well funded search? With thousands of birders all over with high quality, modern, image stabilized super telephotos we can't get one image?
Yep, that's what IB specialists will tell you. And they would focus on some words and phrases you used--
"all we have is"-- we actually have more than a bit of evidence since 2000
"give me one clear image"-- it would go through a lot of hands before it got to you, actually
"approachable"-- you give one example, whereas the experts who've pored over dozens, over 150 years, see how wary the IB was and is
"thousands of birders all over"-- all over where?
That's pretty much it. I like to tell people who question this-- it's different than say Bigfoot. The more you read about BF, the more you disbelieve. With the IB it's the opposite.

Oh yes. Could you provide a still image, or a video, of even a Pileated, but at 100 meters in dense woods? This is the often reported flight initiation distance of an IB.
 
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Patudo

Well-known member
Allow me to flip the question, since you voiced a question and then offered an answer. Can you detail exactly how you would get binoculars on an IB? Where, when, how, with what? Now, further, can you detail exactly how you would get a photographic image? Not any other species, the IB species. What do you know?

How would I get on a target with binoculars? Well, if the target was sighted by eye, bring the binoculars up to my eyes ... which ought to take only a second or two. If not already in focus, maybe another second or two to get the target in focus.

To get a photo... exactly the same, except that with a longer lens the equipment would not point as quickly as binoculars - so maybe allow a couple more seconds. But if I really wanted a photo of a rare bird I'd make damn sure I practised hard with my gear, on everyday targets, stationary and in flight - until acquiring a target in the viewfinder and snapping off shots became second nature. Equipment wise, I wouldn't use a GoPro type setup unless I'd tried it on similar-sized targets at distance (say 50 to maybe 70-80m) and found it gave usable images - I'd rely on a fast-shooting DSLR or mirrorless camera with good performance at high ISOs, and a quality long lens.

As for where and when - that's really up to those trying to prove the ivory-bill still exists, isn't it? They should have the best idea where to look, and when to go. I wish you the best of luck in your search.


Now it's my turn to ask you a few questions: How long, with all the searchers out there, equipped with ever improving photographic and video gear, do you think it'll take before an unambiguous photo is taken? One year? Five years? Ten? Twenty? And if no concrete evidence (definitive photo or freshly dead specimen) emerges, how long are you and other believers prepared to wait until you accept the bird is gone?


A few other thoughts:

- I can believe any original surviving birds back in the 1940s/50s might be wary of humans to the end of their lives - but how many generations have passed since then? 70-odd years have gone by, and in that space of time (or less) much wildlife that used to be extremely elusive has become much easier to approach. Peregrines that were once blasted out of the sky on sight in the UK now live in the midst of cities, grey whales that were hunted virtually to extinction now support whale watching industries, mountain lions in California, sea otters, etc. Is there any reason why that should not be the case with the ivory-bill?

- if evidence for the ivory-bill's survival has turned up in no less than eight different locations (per your post here) - it means that the species must have made it through the 1930s/40s bottleneck. Any birds seen today cannot be survivors from the 1950s - they don't live that long. For ivory-bills to exist in 2021 there must be at least one, if not more, viable breeding populations. If so, with less persecution than in the past, and probably more suitable habitat nowadays as logged forests recover, there's no reason the population should not continue increasing until someone gets definitive photo or video. How long is that likely to be?


PS. did you forget login details for your other username - motiheal?
 
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400+birder

Well-known member
United States
How would I get on a target with binoculars? Well, if the target was sighted by eye, bring the binoculars up to my eyes ... which ought to take only a second or two. If not already in focus, maybe another second or two to get the target in focus.

To get a photo... exactly the same, except that with a longer lens the equipment would not point as quickly as binoculars - so maybe allow a couple more seconds. But if I really wanted a photo of a rare bird I'd make damn sure I practised hard with my gear, on everyday targets, stationary and in flight - until acquiring a target in the viewfinder and snapping off shots became second nature. Equipment wise, I wouldn't use a GoPro type setup unless I'd tried it on similar-sized targets at distance (say 50 to maybe 70-80m) and found it gave usable images - I'd rely on a fast-shooting DSLR or mirrorless camera with good performance at high ISOs, and a quality long lens.

As for where and when - that's really up to those trying to prove the ivory-bill still exists, isn't it? They should have the best idea where to look, and when to go. I wish you the best of luck in your search.


Now it's my turn to ask you a few questions: How long, with all the searchers out there, equipped with ever improving photographic and video gear, do you think it'll take before an unambiguous photo is taken? One year? Five years? Ten? Twenty? And if no concrete evidence (definitive photo or freshly dead specimen) emerges, how long are you and other believers prepared to wait until you accept the bird is gone?


A few other thoughts:

- I can believe any original surviving birds back in the 1940s/50s might be wary of humans to the end of their lives - but how many generations have passed since then? 70-odd years have gone by, and in that space of time (or less) much wildlife that used to be extremely elusive has become much easier to approach. Peregrines that were once blasted out of the sky on sight in the UK now live in the midst of cities, grey whales that were hunted virtually to extinction now support whale watching industries, mountain lions in California, sea otters, etc. Is there any reason why that should not be the case with the ivory-bill?

- if evidence for the ivory-bill's survival has turned up in no less than eight different locations (per your post here) - it means that the species must have made it through the 1930s/40s bottleneck. Any birds seen today cannot be survivors from the 1950s - they don't live that long. For ivory-bills to exist in 2021 there must be at least one, if not more, viable breeding populations. If so, with less persecution than in the past, and probably more suitable habitat nowadays as logged forests recover, there's no reason the population should not continue increasing until someone gets a photo. How long is that likely to be?


PS. did you forget login details for your other username - motiheal?
Yes I did forget motiheal. No big deal, I was off for a while. I'm John Williams, Long Island NY. And you're Patudo.

"maybe allow a couple more seconds"-- basically, no. Too many searchers have reported not to be able to do this. Mike Collins was wise when he commented, more than a decade ago, to use video. I am furthering this by finding a system that is always on, good resolution around 100 meters, and head-mounted, because that is the fastest natural reaction we have to seeing a bird. Video can give far more info than a still can.

How long to proof? With self-funded efforts (albeit associated with pros) and millions of acres in the SE, and perhaps as few as 25 birds? I think five. If not, so what? You can choose to say delusion instead of dedication, but that really just says something about you, not the searchers. The birds probably have a lifespan in line with other temperate-zone Campephilus, and their selective pressure is most likely nest predation. So, roughly 15 years, so from Tanner, 1938, to Dan Mennill's excellent acoustic data, 2006, is between four and five generations. They mate for life and take care of their young, sometimes for years.

Finally, it's better to understand the wariness of specifically the IB rather to reason that it should be like other spp right? No wasted time there?

Thanks for the interest.
 

Patudo

Well-known member
If there are truly "millions of acres of suitable habitat", and if the population has been able to successfully reproduce (which is the only explanation for recent sightings), then they've made it through the bottleneck. There's no, or at least very little human persecution anymore, and there's no reason why the species should not be able to deal with natural predators it evolved alongside. With what should be a recovering population of large and striking birds, it really ought to be only a matter of time before definitive evidence emerges. A conventional camera could have been used in at least some of the sightings (Kulivan's notably). But if the video setup you're using works well enough to get definitive footage (and it would be interesting if you could show us what results it gets on similar-sized targets at the distances you expect to encounter ivory-bills), so much the better. It'll make it that much easier to get the evidence that will at last settle the issue.

At the end of the day, the believers and skeptics can debate how wary ivory-bills may be today, how many might exist, and all the intricacies of the species till kingdom come - but if just one piece of definitive evidence can be found, the really key question - whether it exists or not - will be answered straight away. Although search coverage may be limited, sightings (if we take the reports at face value) are being made. Our ability to get definitive documentation, thanks to the wonders of technology, is greater than ever before, and increasing. Given all that, if no evidence comes, how many years/decades need to pass before we can conclude that it's gone?
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Right. So no real answer. If it's not a special case, then with what, where, when, and how? Just spell it out. I can-- let's see if we match. You have forty years of field experience with birds.

Where-- where do I go?
When?
What? What cam?
How?
In public. Here.
Well, its all negative, isn't it? Those who term themselves "experts" on IBWO have failed throughout the last forty years to find it, despite the historical evidence that does show live wild IBWO demonstrating that when they are present they aren't difficult. Hence the limpness of resorting to imaginary changes in behaviour to explain continuing failure.

There isn't anywhere to go, there isn't any time to go, and all the kit in the world won't help you because the bird is extinct. And that, increasingly, is official.

John
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
The one video I have seen of attempts to find Ivory-billeds was folk paddling their own kayaks through a flooded woodland. Any bird movement and it was drop the paddle, find binoculars, get binoculars to face and by then the bird was long gone. It seemed like a setup designed to get fleeting glimpses.

My ideal set up would be... use an open canoe rather than kayak, have someone in the back paddling the thing and a dedicated observer in the front with a birding DSLR whose only job is looking out for birds.

Either that or invent a time machine!
 

400+birder

Well-known member
United States
Well, its all negative, isn't it? Those who term themselves "experts" on IBWO have failed throughout the last forty years to find it, despite the historical evidence that does show live wild IBWO demonstrating that when they are present they aren't difficult. Hence the limpness of resorting to imaginary changes in behaviour to explain continuing failure.

There isn't anywhere to go, there isn't any time to go, and all the kit in the world won't help you because the bird is extinct. And that, increasingly, is official.

John
Right. So again, for the record, no answer to what I proposed. And the "present they aren't difficult" statement you make is wrong, unstudied, and uninformed. Point made, done here, other things to do.
 

400+birder

Well-known member
United States
If there are truly "millions of acres of suitable habitat", and if the population has been able to successfully reproduce (which is the only explanation for recent sightings), then they've made it through the bottleneck. There's no, or at least very little human persecution anymore, and there's no reason why the species should not be able to deal with natural predators it evolved alongside. With what should be a recovering population of large and striking birds, it really ought to be only a matter of time before definitive evidence emerges. A conventional camera could have been used in at least some of the sightings (Kulivan's notably). But if the video setup you're using works well enough to get definitive footage (and it would be interesting if you could show us what results it gets on similar-sized targets at the distances you expect to encounter ivory-bills), so much the better. It'll make it that much easier to get the evidence that will at last settle the issue.

At the end of the day, the believers and skeptics can debate how wary ivory-bills may be today, how many might exist, and all the intricacies of the species till kingdom come - but if just one piece of definitive evidence can be found, the really key question - whether it exists or not - will be answered straight away. Although search coverage may be limited, sightings (if we take the reports at face value) are being made. Our ability to get definitive documentation, thanks to the wonders of technology, is greater than ever before, and increasing. Given all that, if no evidence comes, how many years/decades need to pass before we can conclude that it's gone?
Two very astute paragraphs. Then a challenging last sentence. Let me take the high road and presume you're with USFW-- who have the power to decide the last sentence, and perhaps allow more wood-pellet and rice farm change of wild habitat. If there is evidence through each decade from the 1930s to the 2010s, and there is, and if each of the eight serious efforts in the 2000s have obtained good evidence, and they have, what should USFW conclude for a low-density, monogamous, K-strategy, ultra-rare in a huge difficult habitat, adaptable, omnivorous, wary-through-hunting-pressure species? The answer is obvious. They conclude it still exists. And, yes, some form of tech will eventually prove it.
 

400+birder

Well-known member
United States
So, does that mean fishcrow will reappear on this thread now you're done? Not quite shape shifting.
I'm not Mike. I'm John Williams, Long Island NY. If we write at all alike, it's because we're both pragmatic. And we both don't suffer fools at length. You're mistaken. (And you're Pyrtle-- a bit hypocritical, no?)
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Hi John,

Well, its all negative, isn't it? Those who term themselves "experts" on IBWO have failed throughout the last forty years to find it, despite the historical evidence that does show live wild IBWO demonstrating that when they are present they aren't difficult. Hence the limpness of resorting to imaginary changes in behaviour to explain continuing failure.

I figure you're going to enjoy this:


(Don't forget to check the bubble help for an aviation reference.)

Regards,

Henning
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
I'm not Mike. I'm John Williams, Long Island NY. If we write at all alike, it's because we're both pragmatic. And we both don't suffer fools at length. You're mistaken. (And you're Pyrtle-- a bit hypocritical, no?)
But unlike you "John", I sign my threads off with my forename, clue - it is written in blue. Whilst usernames/ pseudonymns are not uncommon and I just use the one; like you also chose to do when joining BF along with nearly every other IBW disciple.

You described yourself in your first post as "an experienced birder, having seen over 400 species" but refuting suggestion assistance in identifying a mystery bird seen by you in Florida, quickly discounting other very experienced members. But wasn't it hookbait to introduce the possibility you thought it was an IBW or similar back in 2010?

Yes, you and Mike are very similar in behaviour. You're welcome.
 
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Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
I've been reading some of accounts of birders/trophy hunters trying to find Ivory-billeds at the turn of the 19th Century. The problem they have is finding remnants of the correct habitats. Once they have the correct habitats the birds themselves are easy to find. They call almost continuously, they can be approached, they will even fly towards the humans as if to investigate them.

This seems to be in sharp contrast to the modern portrayal as ghosts in the deep dark woods.
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
I've been reading some of accounts of birders/trophy hunters trying to find Ivory-billeds at the turn of the 19th Century. The problem they have is finding remnants of the correct habitats. Once they have the correct habitats the birds themselves are easy to find. They call almost continuously, they can be approached, they will even fly towards the humans as if to investigate them.

This seems to be in sharp contrast to the modern portrayal as ghosts in the deep dark woods.
Yes; yesterday I watched footage of David Attenborough " calling in " a pair of Magellan woodpeckers by a quick double knock with stones on the side of a tree in a known habitat... the female just a few feet away from him at one time. Whilst I understand that IBW were a much shyer and quicker to flee species, they must surely out of curiousity investigate a high quality playback within their territory.
 

400+birder

Well-known member
United States
I've been reading some of accounts of birders/trophy hunters trying to find Ivory-billeds at the turn of the 19th Century. The problem they have is finding remnants of the correct habitats. Once they have the correct habitats the birds themselves are easy to find. They call almost continuously, they can be approached, they will even fly towards the humans as if to investigate them.

This seems to be in sharp contrast to the modern portrayal as ghosts in the deep dark woods.
The many accounts of the birds being wary, from the 1800s to the 2000s, far outnumber the accounts of them being approachable. The quickest way to read about all this is Chris Haney's new book Woody's Last Laugh.
 

400+birder

Well-known member
United States
Yes; yesterday I watched footage of David Attenborough " calling in " a pair of Magellan woodpeckers by a quick double knock with stones on the side of a tree in a known habitat... the female just a few feet away from him at one time. Whilst I understand that IBW were a much shyer and quicker to flee species, they must surely out of curiousity investigate a high quality playback within their territory.
Some IBs have responded to ADKs, but none have approached closely. They're not Magellanics.
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
The many accounts of the birds being wary, from the 1800s to the 2000s, far outnumber the accounts of them being approachable. The quickest way to read about all this is Chris Haney's new book Woody's Last Laugh.
Full title please "John" so as to maintain a balanced scribe. Thank you.
PS. Maybe of interest but over here I can call in Great Spotted Woodpecker using playbacks of 3 other similar European species, just as a continuing experiment. I've also seen other Flameback species respond to Greater Flameback calls in Goa and Kerala, India.
Goodnight.
 
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D Halas

Well-known member
The many accounts of the birds being wary, from the 1800s to the 2000s, far outnumber the accounts of them being approachable. The quickest way to read about all this is Chris Haney's new book Woody's Last Laugh.

But if you disregard the accounts that came after the species went extinct, do accounts of them being wary still far outnumber accounts of them being approachable?
 

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