Sighting of ivory-billed woodpecker questioned by new batch of experts

Ivory-billed woodpecker, we hardly knew ye. And then ye came back and we acted like we’d known ye all along. But now it turns out there may be no ye to know after all: In today’s issue of the journal Science, leading North American birder David Sibley and three ornithologists say that last year’s seeming rediscovery of the bird — last conclusively sighted in Louisiana in 1944 — is a case of mistaken identity. Sibley et al. believe the now-famous grainy video footage of the elusive bird, more scrutinized than the Zapruder film, in fact captures a relatively common pileated woodpecker. The researchers note such details as “the black trailing edge of the left wing visible in frame 350” (oh, snap!) to cast doubt on the bird’s resurrection. Believers counter that other factors, including the bird’s launch posture (no you didn’t!), prove their case. Both sides, though, agree on the need to conserve the 550,000 acres of woods and wetlands that comprise the Arkansas Big Woods, prime woodpecker habitat.