Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Photos Likely A Hoax

The claims of Daniel Rainsong concerning his photographic evidence of a living Ivory-Billed woodpecker are beginning to look more and more dubious.

As pointed out by a reader in the comments section of my original post regarding the alleged Ivory-Billed sighting, the leading ornithological experts mentioned in Rainsong's press release have yet to see the photographs of the bird. Van Remsen, curator of birds at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science and adjunct professor of biological sciences at LSU, says Rainsong has visited him but produced no photos. "He would not show me his photographic evidence. He said he had to develop them." Van Remsen added, " I'll believe it when I see it."

Another expert mentioned in Rainsong's press release says he has not seen the alleged photos. Jerry Jackson is the author of the 2007 Draft Recovery Plan for the Ivory-Billed woodpecker says he has never heard of Rainsong. "I look forward to seeing them but his approach has me wondering." he said. "This seems to be the standard 'IB obsession' approach, similar to the last report we got with photos, which were of a photoshopped Pileated."

It is looking more and more like Mr. Rainsong's claims are dubious at best. Based on Rainsong's conversation with Van Remsen, he had not yet developed his photos. How could Rainsong have known he had definitive photographic evidence of a living Ivory-Billed woodpecker if he had not yet developed his film? I also find it a bit unusual that a film camera was used by a, supposedly, serious birder and researcher at all. Also, if Rainsong truly felt he had captured the Ivory-Billed woodpecker on film why in the world would he wait over a month to develop the photos? I suppose it is possible but the story gets more difficult to swallow with every hour that passes.

There is more....

Rainsong, it seems, posted a strange ad on Craig's List looking for a "research assistant" to help him capture Ivory-Bill evidence. In the ad, Rainsong references a $10,000 reward for producing said evidence. No such reward exists, to my knowledge. You can see a partial reconstruction of the Craig's List ad here.

So, why perpetrate such an elaborate hoax? This was my main question to the reader who felt this was a likely hoax in the first place. Maybe there is a clue in the observation of Radd Icenoggle, author of Birds in Place: A Habitat-based Field Guide to Birds of the Northern Rockies. Icenoggle has noted that Rainsong's name appears on numerous gambling websites. Hmmm...

I really hope I'm wrong but I have pretty much given up on Rainsong's claims being true. There are just too many questions. I have not, however, given up on the idea that a remnant population of Ivory-Billed woodpeckers may yet survive in the bottom lands of this or other southern states. It will truly be a fantastic discovery when and if the Ivory-Billed woodpecker is re-discovered. It just seems that this is not that day.


  1. The complete Craigslist ad is now available in new post over at same site of the partial ad. Rainsong apparently mistakenly believed he could collect $10,000 for merely producing an Ivory-bill photo (not so), and apparently already had a book in mind even before the whole escapade began. Enough right there to point toward hoax.
    But there's also a lot more in this story that just doesn't jive together well.

  2. More dispiriting info about "Rainsong" at these links:

    He does not appear to be a reputable character.

  3. I was raised in the Big Thicket in Texas (Woodville) and saw these birds when I was young, albeit only a few times. They exist. Or so....they did back in the 70's and 80's.