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July 2005


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Bryan Pfeiffer <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 25 Jul 2005 15:39:54 -0400
text/plain (80 lines)
VT Birders,

To follow up on Hector's and (earlier) Ruth's posts on Ivory-billed
Woodpecker, I'm a friend of the lead author on the paper, Dr. Richard Prum,
who grew up in Vermont. Many Vermont birders will recall Rick's early avian
adventures in the state. He's now a well-regarded ornithologist at Yale.
Rick's done amazing work -- everything from general taxonomy to the
evolutionary origins of feathers, from describing manakin leks (amazing
stuff) to changing our view of what causes structural blue coloration in
birds and dragonflies (turns out that it's not sky-blue Rayleigh scattering
after all).

Anyway, I'm quite familiar with Prum's analysis of the Ivory-billed
sighting. His paper -- to be published soon in the peer-reviewed,
open-access Public Library of Science - Biology (http://www.plos.org/) --
will expose flaws in the strongest evidence the Cornell folks present to
support their IBWO report: the video. It's not that Prum and his co-authors
simply say the fuzzy video evidence isn't strong enough to prove the IBWO
claim; instead they provide convincing evidence that the video footage is
actually of a Pileated Woodpecker.

I agree with Hector: I suspect the Science article on IBWO would not get
past the Arkansas bird records committee. I confess to not reviewing all
the written accounts and field drawings in support of the IBWO sighting
(none of which are detailed in the Science article); but what I've seen so
far is less than convincing.

I'm told that the funds the Bush administration allocated for IBWO habitat
is not new money, but rather money taken from other worthy endangered
species projects. To be sure, it's fine to protect bottomland forests in
Arkansas, but at this point it's not at all clear that Ivory-billed
Woodpeckers will be among the beneficiaries.

Bryan Pfeiffer

>Date:         Mon, 25 Jul 2005 09:54:46 -0400
>Reply-To:     Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>
>Sender:       Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>
>From:         Hector Galbraith <[log in to unmask]>
>Subject:      Ivory-bills
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
>VT birders For those of you interested in the emerging debate over whether
>the ivory-billed woodpecker evidence reported a couple of months ago can
>be considered definitive or inconclusive, please see the URLs below. I
>have to admit that when I first saw the evidence provided by the Cornell
>team I was less than bowled over. I lived in Scotland for 30-odd years and
>I have seen photographs of the Loch Ness Monster that are more convincing
>than the still from the ivory-bill video! If I had seen a possible ivory
>bill in VT and taken the same video and sent it to the Bird Records
>Committee I am sure that it would have been rejected as inconclusive, as
>it should be. Seems from the URLs that Sibley and Kaufman, among other
>luminaries, have similar reservations. This is NOT to say that the ivory
>bills are not still extant, only that the evidence published thus far is
>not as conclusive as it could be. As Carl Sagan used to say: if you are
>making extraordinary scientific claims, you must have extraordinarily good
>evidence to back them up (he was refering to little green men visiting the
>Earth). I, for one, don't think that we are there yet. Lets hope, that
>better, more conclusive, evidence will be presented soon.
>http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/science/24bird.html Hector Galbraith PhD
>Galbraith Environmental Sciences LLC 837 Camp Arden Rd., Dummerston,
>VT05301 802 365 9119 (phone)

113 Bartlett Road
Plainfield, VT 05667

Ecological Inventories of Birds and Insects.

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