Science in the News
Lost or Found!?
The Search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
Recently, hope took wing across an Arkansas swamp.
A presumably extinct bird, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, was reportedly rediscovered in 2004. This magnificent woodpecker, the largest in North America and second largest in the world, once inhabited the hardwood bottomlands of the southeastern U.S. There hasn't been a confirmed sighting since 1944.
While ornithologists and bird lovers rejoice at the possible survival of the woodpecker, clear images are needed to confirm the sightings-a difficult challenge in the densely wooded area. The 2006 search team, led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is combing the area again this year. Perhaps this year hope will fly by a camera.
Location: Ground Floor, Atrium Cafe Entrance
Why do some people question the recent sightings?
Compare these woodpeckers.
Many features of the Ivory-billed and Pileated Woodpeckers are similar. Imagine seeing it from a distance and in dense forest!
Give your curiosity wings
Follow the reports of the 2006 search for the ivory billed woodpecker:
Cornell Ornithology Lab website: www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory
Learn about the efforts to preserve this habitat:
Nature Conservancy website: Nature.org/ivorybill
For basic information about birds and ornithology:
Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Museum's Birds Division: www.nmnh.si.edu/vert/birds/
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: www.pwrc.usgs.gov/
For Past Science News Exhibits: mnh.si.edu/museum/news/past/index.htm
How is the Smithsonian involved?
Smithsonian scientist Rob Fleischer with tray of woodpecker skins
Rob Fleischer, head of the Smithsonian's Genetics Program, extracts DNA from tiny pieces of Ivory-billed Woodpecker study skins in the Museum's bird collection. He is comparing genetic differences and studying the evolutionary relationships among Ivory-billed Woodpeckers from North America and Cuba and the Imperial Woodpecker of Mexico, which is also presumed extinct.