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Airdate: Nov 08, 2018
Scientist: Jerome Jackson

The Holy Grail of Birdwatching

The Holy Grail of Birdwatching
Searching for the near-extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.

Heres a program from our archives.For American birdwatchers, finding the Ivory Billed Woodpecker is like searching for the Holy Grail. Every year there are reports from those who have claimed to have seen the bird, but the last confirmed sightings were made in the 1940's. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.ambience, Ivory Billed Woodpecker Jackson: The problem with identifying an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in the United States is there is a very similar bird called the Pileated Woodpecker that is about the same size. The difference between the two is that the Ivory-Bill has this large, white shield on its back when it's perched, and the Pileated Woodpecker does not. Many people see some white on the Pileated Woodpecker, it does have some on its wings, it does have a white stripe down its side, and they think they're seeing an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. So we can't be sure when someone just calls in and says, 'I've seen and Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.' Science demands confirmation, and confirmation in this case would mean a photograph or a good sound recording of the species.Jerome Jackson is a professor of biological sciences at Mississippi State University. He's been in charge of an effort to determine whether the Ivory Billed Woodpecker should be declared extinct. To find out, he's walked through many old growth forests in the southeastern US, playing recordings of the bird and listening for a reply.Jackson: We did get some response, but the responses never resulted in a visual contact; never resulted in really seeing the bird, although we had one case in which some bird responded for nearly 28 minutes by giving exactly the same call as the Ivory-Bill, but what we do know is that Blue Jays can sometimes mimic Ivory-Bill Woodpeckers and that could've been what we were hearing, although I don't think so.This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. If you want hear more, check out our podcast.