Bird Lovers Are Confused

This artist rendering provided by the journal Science shows the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to be extinct, that has reportedly been sighted in eastern Arkansas, a Cornell University researcher says in a paper released Thursday, April 28, 2005. John W. Fitzpatrick of Cornell University said there have been several independent sightings of a bird that appears to be an ivory-billed woodpecker. AP

This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
We were thrilled last year to report the sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker. The giant bird with the "Woody The Woodpecker" head was thought to be extinct.

But last year scientists from Cornell University — where they really know about birds — confirmed a sighting in the swamps of Arkansas. Birders had looked for years in Louisiana because of rumors of one there. So when the "Lord God" bird was seen and verified, it was big news.

The ivory-bill is nicknamed the "Lord God" bird because even when there were plenty of them, that was the response the bird evoked — Lord God.

Now we hear that David Sibley, the brilliant illustrator of the Sibley Bird Guides, has analyzed the data and concludes the evidence was not sufficient to prove the bird was an ivory-billed woodpecker.

What? He said his findings were like a, quote, "Kick in the stomach."

The Cornell guys say Sibley is wrong, but this is a little like Audubon himself saying, "You confused a woodpecker with a tree sparrow" — leaving us bird lovers confused … we so want the story to be true.



Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

Comments