BRINKLEY - With the arrival of volunteer searchers, the 2005-2006
Ivory-billed Woodpecker Research Project is now fully staffed and going
full steam ahead. The current field season continues through April 2006.
The search is being led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, The Nature
Conservancy, and Audubon Arkansas, with the support and cooperation of
other members the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Team.
Twenty-two search team leaders, coordinators, supervisors, and field
technicians have been working in eastern Arkansas since November 1. More
than 100 volunteers will now be joining the search, and will be deployed in
groups of 14 for two week periods through the remainder of the field
season. “The restoration of the entire corridor of the Cache River is
extremely important to the habitat of many wildlife species, not only the
Ivory-billed Woodpecker,” said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission director
Scott Henderson. "This rediscovery could not have happened if not for
hunters. They are Arkansas' true conservationists," he added.
The goal is to find an ivory-bill roost hole or nest hole and get
additional video documentation of the bird or birds-all in the hope of
learning more about the species to bring the ivory-bill back from
“This is an exciting opportunity to better document the existence and learn
more about this magnificent bird,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional
Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Now that the leaves have
fallen, conditions are much improved for seeing and hearing the birds.
Finding birds is a critical part of the recovery process and we’re hoping
for some exciting news.”
“Since the ivory-bill’s rediscovery, The Nature Conservancy has acquired
for protection some 18,500 acres of critical habitat and worked with the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add 1,440 acres to the Cache River
National Wildlife Refuge - where the bird was first spotted,” said Scott
Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Arkansas chapter. “The more
data gathered about the number and location of ivory bills living in
Arkansas, the more we can do to protect this fragile habitat and make sure
this incredible bird survives for generations to come. Because of the great
cooperation of many agencies and organizations focusing on habitat
conservation, we have a chance to recover the ivory bill.”
Searches in Arkansas are planned for White River National Wildlife Refuge,
Cache River NWR, Dagmar Wildlife Management AreA, Black Swamp WMA,
Wattensaw WMA and Benson Creek Natural Area. Other teams are starting to
organize scouting trips to follow-up on Ivory-billed woodpecker sightings
from across the southern United States in the former range of the bird.
This may involve work in South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and Texas, but
will depend on a review of what is believed to be the best habitat, along
with credible recent sightings.
Searchers will use traditional tools, such as binoculars and digital
cameras, as well as high-tech methods that include Autonomous Recording
Units (ARUs), sophisticated sound-analysis software, time-lapse video
systems, and remote cameras. Human searchers will make their way through
the bayous by canoe and on foot, looking for promising tree cavities. They
will also be conducting transect searches with the aid of GPS units. At
other times they will be sitting quietly in blinds, observing. Scouts will
be looking for suitable ivory-bill habitat, assisted by NASA satellite
photos that will help them focus on promising areas more quickly.
“The volunteers are vital to the search effort,” says Dr. John Fitzpatrick,
director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Without them there’s no way we
could scour such a large area for ivory-bills. These folks are field
biologists and avid birders-all of them giving up their time to be part of
this once-in-a-lifetime recovery project.”
Key to the recovery of the ivory-bill is preservation of habitat. Thanks to
the efforts of local hunters and fishers, the ivory-bill, and many other
species was able to survive in the depths of the Big Woods. More than 75
percent of the habitat at Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, location of
the March 2004, Ivory-billed Woodpecker sighting, was purchased with $41
million in revenue generated from the sale of duck stamps.
Hunters, birders and other lovers of the outdoors are encouraged to buy
stamps to save habitat, which not only benefits the Ivory-billed
Woodpecker, but wildlife everywhere. Ducks Stamps sell for $15 at the
United States Postal Service 1-800 STAMP-24 (1-800-782-6724), and at most
major sporting goods stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses.