'Extinct' Bird's Sounds Convince Scientists

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Associated Press
Wednesday, August 3, 2005

LITTLE ROCK, Aug. 2 -- Recordings of the ivory-billed woodpecker's distinctive double-rap sounds have convinced doubting researchers that the large bird once thought extinct is still living in an east Arkansas swamp.

Last month, a group of ornithologists had questioned the announcement made in April of the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, last sighted in 1944. They said blurry videotape of a bird in flight was insufficient evidence.

"We sent them some sounds this summer from the Arkansas woods," said John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "We appreciate their ability to say they are now believers."

Yale ornithologist Richard O. Prum said he was particularly convinced by the Cornell researchers' two recordings of a series of nasal sounds that the ivory bills make and an exchange of double-rap sounds between two birds. The recordings seem to indicate that there is more than one ivory-billed woodpecker in the area.

"We are ecstatic," said Mark Robbins of the University of Kansas. "Once everybody hears these vocalizations, you can't help but be convinced."

One portion of the tapes has a distant double-rap, followed quickly by a double-rap that is very close. "It's communication typical of the ivory-billed," Fitzpatrick said. "It's one of the more exciting cuts from the tape."


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