Beak Truth to Power
Scientists question ivory-billed woodpecker evidence
Conservationists and bird lovers have been enjoying their euphoric high from the rediscovery of the legendary, turns-out-not-extinct-after-all ivory-billed woodpecker. So leave it to a trio of meddling scientists to come along and harsh the buzz. Three biologists have written a paper questioning whether the evidence gathered to support the alleged re-emergence of the woodpecker — including the now-famous grainy four-second video — is in fact conclusive. “In my opinion,” said Jerome Jackson, one of the paper’s authors, “the data presented thus far do no more than suggest the possibility” that the woodpecker is back. The paper is expected to be published in a peer-reviewed journal within weeks, along with a spirited rebuttal from the team that announced the discovery, along with a rebuttal of the rebuttal by the paper’s authors, all of which will no doubt prompt months of anguished hand-wringing from everyone involved. At stake is not just the heart-warming story of a species returned like a phoenix from the ashes of extinction, but the $13 million in conservation money the Bush administration plans to distribute to landowners in the region.