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UGA study may give hope that ivory-billed woodpeckers still around
Date:1/16/2009

Athens, Ga. Until credible sightings popped up three years ago, the scientific world was in agreement that ivory-billed woodpeckers had gone the way of the dodo. A new study conducted by University of Georgia researchers reveals that the ivory-billed woodpecker could have persisted if as few as five mated pairs survived the extensive habitat loss during the early 1900's. A new paper published in the online journal Avian Conservation and Ecology by researchers at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources adds another angle to the ongoing debate about modern existence of the birds.

Crow-sized and native to America's ancient southeastern bottomland forests, the ivory-billed woodpecker was thought to have gone extinct following indiscriminate logging in the 1940s until reports began surfacing in the flooded forests of eastern Arkansas in 2004. Crisp photographic or genetic evidence continues to evade eager seekers, however, and controversy has raged about whether there were even enough of the woodpeckers left to keep the species going through the latter part of the 20th century.

"It doesn't prove that they do exist," said Warnell Professor Michael Conroy. "It just shows that they could have persisted."

Conroy is one of several scientists on the team who conducted a population viability analysis, which was funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Also on the team are Warnell post-doctoral students Brady Mattsson and Rua Mordecai, Warnell professors James Peterson and Robert Cooper, and Danish researcher Hans Christensen.

The ivory-billed woodpeckernicknamed the "Lord God Bird" for its impressive physique and bold black and white plumagehas been the subject of intense debate among bird researchers. James Tanner, the only scientist to have studied this woodpecker intensively, estimated that only 24 breeding pairs remained in the 1930s. Although there have been credible sightings of the birds in Arkansas
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Contact: Sandi Martin
smartin@warnell.uga.edu
706-542-2079
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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