Hugh Bollinger
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Lord God Bird seen again...maybe!

When James Audubon made his classic illustrations of American birds in the late 19th Century, one stood out among them all -- the Ivory Billed Woodpecker -- or Lord God Bird. Audubon hunted multiple animals to obtain specimens for his famous painting. [caption id="attachment_3816" align="aligncenter" width="220" caption="Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Source: James Aububon"][/caption] Destruction of their original forest habitats and rampant hunting combined to eliminate this largest American woodpecker from their ranges in the southern states. By the mid-194os it was considered extinct. Sightings continued to be reported but not confirmed. Since the Ivory Billed Woodpecker had been so relentlessly hunted, the few birds (if any) that remained would have been rightly secretive, their swampy forests were hard to navigate, and they could be easily confused with a more common relative, the Pileated Woodpecker. However, the reports of sightings continued and in the first years of the 21st Century, a series of reports emerged including a short, grainy video of one bird in flight. These putative sightings from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida were tantalizing but inconclusive. What was needed was a clear video and audio recording of the Lord God Bird with its distinctive coloration and double rap call. This may now have been obtained by a dedicated, private birder, Michael Collins, patiently watching in Louisiana's Pearl River region. A technical paper, including his audio and video recordings, is being prepared for Acoustical Society of America. There is something very exciting and elemental about the rediscovery of a creature previously thought extinct. Let's hope this "maybe" sighting of such an iconic American bird is finally proven true. That would offer the hope that these majestic birds could return to take their rightful place in the recovering swamp forests of the southern USA. WHB      
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