Friday, January 22, 2010

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Re-Discovered?

Some potentially fantastic news is being reported over at the Cryptomundo website by Loren Coleman.

A gentleman named Daniel Rainsong is claiming to have multiple, clear, and definitive photographs of a living breathing Ivory-Billed woodpecker. The legendary bird was photographed in the Sabine River Basin in December of 2009 and again at a later date. If true, the Holy Grail of ornithology has been located. Read the Cryptomundo post here.

The Ivory-Billed woodpecker once dominated old growth forests all over the south. It is a very large and striking woodpecker that has been dubbed the "Lord God Bird." The Ivory-Bill has been thought likely extinct since the mid 1900s. Periodically, reports of Ivory-Billed woodpeckers have trickled in from southern states. It seemed that most such reports turned out to be sightings of the similar looking, but smaller, Pileated woodpecker. The compelling sightings were never accompanied by photographic evidence. An expedition sponsored by Cornell University produced some interesting, but ultimately inconclusive, video of a woodpecker in flight that could have been an Ivory-Bill in 2004. The video was shot in the swamps of Arkansas but could not be duplicated.

According to Loren Coleman, Mr. Rainsong is a man who is very familiar with the differences between the Pileated and Ivory-Billed woodpeckers. Sources seem to be very confident that Rainsong would not mistake a Pileated woodpecker for an Ivory-Bill. Coleman goes on to report that the photographs have been sequestered to protect Mr. Rainsong's right of claim to this rediscovery. After confirmation of Rainsong's photographs, they will be released to the public in conjuction with biologists from Louisiana State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Iowa State University, and Cornell University.

I really hope this turns out to be the real deal. It would be a true boon to the efforts to preserve potential Ivory-Billed habitats in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. This might allow the "Lord God Bird" to re-establish itself in its former haunts. The protection of these areas could only benefit other species as well.

Keep your fingers crossed...


  1. It will turn out to be a hoax. Or at best a case of mistaken identity. Scores of times over the last 60 years hopes have been raised and dashed. This time will be no different.

  2. You are probably correct. However, I have hope that a small remnant population of these birds remains.

    I doubt an outright hoax as a lot of prestigious university personnel have their name, and reputations, behind this.

    We will see, I suppose...

  3. The Cryptomundo statement that the announcement was "Released in conjunction with" Van Remsen and others is very misleading. It was not. As can been seen at the press release website, Loren Coleman left out a sentence indicating that the listed scientists have either been notified of the supposed discovery or that they "will be notified." The scientists had nothing whatsoever to do with the press release and have not staked their reputations on anything pertaining to Daniel Rainsong.

  4. That is interesting...

    Even so, what would Rainsong have to gain by perpetrating an outright hoax? He would be finished in the field.

    Is Rainsong currently working with grant money from one of these universities? If so, is the money going to dry up unless a positive result is produced soon? I suppose this scenario could tempt someone to produce false results.

    I don't know Daniel Rainsong and have no idea what sort of person he is. Hopefully, he is an ethical researcher who would not purposefully mislead the public.

    Again, time will tell. I remain hopeful. Not for Rainsong's sake but for that of the species in question.

  5. Wish I could post pictures on this site yes the Ivory billed does live and I have a photo of it. I have seen this bird several time for over a year now. I use the wing color pattern as the field marker for identifying the Ivory Bill, and no what I see is not the Pilated Woodpecker The ivory bill has a white trailing edge on the wing viewed from the top or bottom the Pileated does not.

  6. I would love to see your photo(s). I know several very well respected birding experts and might could help you absolutely confirm the bird in your shots. Of course, I would love to post them here but if you don't wish to do so I would still be glad to have my friends take a look at your photos. You can contact me at if you are interested in arranging something.

    I'll look forward to hearing something from you.

  7. I don't care if anyone believes me or not, but I saw an ivory billed woodpecker 8 feet away from me in Orange, Texas in early March of 2005. The only reason I know it was an Ivory bill is because I happened to see the news story about the sighting and video in late April of the same year.
    I was on the phone with a friend and heard what sounded like hammering coming from just outside my bedroom window. I pulled the curtain back and was startled by the sight of the biggest woodpecker I had ever seen. It was on the camphor tree outside my window, a tree riddled with holes from previous woodpeckers, a common sight for me during my childhood. It frightened me, frankly, because of its freakish size. I said "Holy God!" And dropped the curtain. My friend on the phone asked "What, what was that noise?", because he could hear the bird hammering the tree with it's beak. I proceeded to tell him it was the biggest damn woodpecker I had ever seen. He just laughed and said "Dude, you're scared of a woodpecker?" I responded "Yeah, when they are bigger than a turkey with 6 inch beak, I am."