Ivory-billed woodpecker   Robert Leverett
  Apr 03, 2006 06:08 PDT 

Ed and Don,

   Great discussion thread on loss of genetic diversity. Please, keep
the thread going. Your debate brings to mind a related subject - the
complex nature of species perpetuation and how human activity supports
or interferes with it. I'm reminded of the probable rediscovery of the
ivory bill in Arkansas.

   Perhaps the ivory bill, as few other species, shines light on the
importance of nature being allowed to do what nature does to produce
habitat necessary for the survival of species. On the March 24th field
trip, one of the Fish and Wildlife people gave us a briefing at Dagmar
WMA on habitat restoration efforts. He noted that when the endangered
species act kicked in for the ivory-billed, his agency was prohibited
from active management. Basically, I understood active management to
mean the implementing of various cutting plans to induce the growth of
one species or another, or some mix. The intentions of the managing
agencies are clearly good. The briefers demonstrated expertise in many
ways, but looking at the hulking forms of 1000+ year old cypresses, I
was reminded of what they can't do and that is produce an abundance of
huge cypress and large tupelos in a short time period from simply
managing the areas thick with young trees. Releasing the young trees
certainly speeds growth, but it takes a long time to produce the
environment that the ivory bill exploits as evidenced by where it was
found. In one way or another, the big trees are apparently necessary for
the ivory bill's survival. For one thing, the cover that the big trees
provide is of an entirely different level than what is provided by
smaller, younger trees. When the bird is bigger than the tree, the
tree's roll as cover is compromised as is the tree's roll as a food
source. The ivory bill needs large larvae - lots of large larvae and
from recently dead trees, as opposed to the long dead ones. That was a
surprising revelation for me. A few standing snags don't provide the
ivory bill with its required feeding habitat. To get a mix of older dead
and newly killed trees of sufficient size for an ivory bill to have both
cover and food, a very large area is needed. I hope the Arkansas area of
the Cache and White Rivers is large enough to sustain a population of
ivory bills, as opposed to being the last shrinking vestige of what was
the ivory-billed woodpecker's required habitat.

   I'll close by saying that I was impressed with the competence and
dedication of the Fish and Wildlife departments - both state and


Re: Transitioning to the ivory-billed woodpecker   wad-@comcast.net
  Apr 03, 2006 06:45 PDT 

Do you think the DDT had anything to do with the Ivory billed woodpecker's decline? Maybe the birds decline was for a group of reasons. DDT could have affected the insect population it depended on too? With Dursban and other nasty insecticides recently off the market, I can only guess that the bird food level in the web of life will increase.
I can't say for sure, but the raptor population in Se Pa is on the rise. A Bald Eagle has been spotted in Se Pa, which is a first for a long time. Local Red tailed hawk and Coopers Hawk populations seem to be on the rise too. I also saw my first Great Horned Owl this winter, three to be exact. I am guessing that the songbird populations will suffer if this is factual.

Re: Transitioning to the ivory-billed woodpecker   Kirk Johnson
  Apr 03, 2006 07:22 PDT 
Interesting tidbit. I was talking to an ornithologist last week at the Roger
Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, NY. He is a colleague of the
researchers who "rediscovered" the ivory billed woodpecker, as well the
skeptics who believe they are mistaken and that it was a rush to judgement
and a rush to publish.

He told me interviews with old-timers who remember the ivory billed have
revealed that people deliberately killed them quite often. Apparently they
were considered very noisy and annoying by many, so they were killed for
that reason, but they also tasted good. After killing the "annoying"
noisemaker, a person would take it home and cook it up. So there was double
motivation to kill them.

Kirk Johnson