Contact: Bonnie Strawser - 252-473-1131
September 9, 2006
Ivory-billed woodpecker focus of keynote speech
Ornithologist Ken Rosenberg, director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, will be the keynote speaker for this year's Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival to be held Nov. 7-12 on and near the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
His presentation will include photos and recordings of the Ivory-billed woodpecker from the 1930s that, until the recent discovery of the bird in Arkansas , were assumed to be the last tangible proof that such a bird ever existed.
Cornell researchers were part of the team in on the initial discovery of the woodpecker in Arkansas , and Rosenberg is one of the leaders of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Species Recovery Team formed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife. That team is working to draft a recovery plan for the species. Rosenberg is a member of the Biology Working Group.
The large woodpeckers once were found throughout the coastal plains stretching from North Carolina to eastern Texas , and even in small areas of Illinois , Kentucky , Oklahoma and Missouri . By the turn of the last century, the range had continually become smaller until, in the mid 1940s, the bird was thought to no longer exist.
The recent discovery of the bird was in Arkansas , but researchers also are checking out reported sightings in other states, including North Carolina .
A famous engraving of the bird made for American Ornithology is based on the drawings of Alexander Wilson who captured one of the birds near Wilmington in the early 1800s. Wilson shot the bird but failed to kill it so decided to take it to his hotel room where he tethered it to furniture while he studied it for his drawings. Left alone for a while, the unhappy bird pecked a hole in the wall and damaged the top of a table as he tried to escape.
Some scientists are excited about the rediscovery of the species because of its unique biology, but ornithologist Rosenberg views the discovery as a symbol of hope.
"The discovery is one of the best symbols of an ecosystem that was lost to logging. They took virtually every acre of the bottomland swamps and adjacent pine forests throughout the southeast. If the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is still living at a time when those forests are regrowing, it gives us hope for restoring lost pieces of nature."
Rosenberg said that sightings of the bird have been reported throughout the decades, but now, with the attention drawn to the subject, people are coming forward with sightings that they were hesitant to report before. "None are documented or certain, and they all may be wrong; but we are embarking on a search effort to see if these birds are here are not.
"There have been undocumented sightings coming out of the southeast," said Rosenberg . "Part of what we are doing now is organizing searches which should have been done 60 years ago. This is bigger than the Arkansas story. In some ways, this effort is extremely critical."
The dinner and presentation, co-sponsored by the Carolina Bird Club, begins at 6 p.m. on Nov. 10 at the Dunes Restaurant in Nags Head. Reservations are required.
Wings Over Water isn't just about birds although it includes a long list of exciting birding trips. History is explored, kayaks and canoes are paddled, black bear and red wolf habitats are visited, and there even is a ghost tour.
There is something for almost everyone during this fall festival and registration is now underway. Information about Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival can be found at www.wingsoverwater.org or by calling the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce at 441-8144.
Wings Over Water is sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, Carolina Bird Club, Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society, National Park Service and the Outer Banks Sentinel.