April 28, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

“Extinct” Woodpecker Found in Arkansas

One of the world’s largest woodpeckers, the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought for over 50 years to be extinct, has been spotted alive in the remote woods of Arkansas.  See National Geographic News, New Scientist, and MSNBC for details.
Update 07/21/2005: The good news may be premature.  News@Nature says that some experts believe the observers were mistaken, and that what were seen were a related species, the pileated woodpecker.  The final verdict is still out, therefore.

If a breeding population of a species of bird this large and colorful could escape detection for almost 60 years right in America’s back yard, how can scientists be sure that other large animals are truly extinct?  Remember the video of a mammoth-size elephant found in Thailand a few years ago?  It’s good to have this woodpecker back, but it raises interesting questions about what other assumed-extinct species may just be hiding behind a tree somewhere.  Every once in awhile one shows up alive and well, some thought extinct since the age of dinosaurs: the Wollemi pine, the tuatara, the coelacanth, and others.  Keep your eyes open.  Maybe a brontosaurus will come strolling down Sunset Boulevard.  Sightings of stranger creatures have been reported there.

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Categories: Birds

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