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Ivorybill Hunters: The Search for Proof in a Flooded Wilderness

Overview

The last documented sighting of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker—one of the rarest and most intriguing animals in the world—was noted over 50 years ago. Long thought to be extinct, the 2005 announcement of a sighting in Arkansas sparked tremendous enthusiasm and hope that this species could yet be saved. But the subsequent failure of a massive search to relocate Ivorybills in Arkansas made hope for the species' revival short-lived.
Here, noted ornithologist Geoffrey Hill tells the ...

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Overview

The last documented sighting of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker—one of the rarest and most intriguing animals in the world—was noted over 50 years ago. Long thought to be extinct, the 2005 announcement of a sighting in Arkansas sparked tremendous enthusiasm and hope that this species could yet be saved. But the subsequent failure of a massive search to relocate Ivorybills in Arkansas made hope for the species' revival short-lived.
Here, noted ornithologist Geoffrey Hill tells the story of how he and two of his colleagues stumbled upon what may be a breeding population of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the swamps of northern Florida. He relates their laborious attempts to document irrefutable evidence for the existence of this shy, elusive bird following the failure of a much larger research team to definitively prove the bird's existence.
Hill tells of his travails both in and out of the vast swamp wilderness, pulling back the curtain to reveal the little-seen political maneuvering that is part of all modern science. He explains how he and his group decided who to exclude or include as their findings came in, and why they felt the need to keep their search a secret. Hill returns repeatedly to how expectations can guide observations, and how tempting it is to oversell evidence in the face of the struggle between an overwhelming desire to find the bird and the need to retain integrity and objectivity.
Written like a good detective story, Ivorybill Hunters also delves into the science behind the rediscovery of a species, explaining how professional ornithologists follow up on a sight record of a rare bird, and how this differs from the public's perception of how scientists actually work. Hill notes the growing role of amateurs in documenting bird activity and discusses how the community of birders and nature lovers can see, enjoy, and help preserve these birds.
Ivorybill Hunters will prove a fascinating read for those with an interest in natural history, adventure, environmental conservation, and science, as well as the more than forty-six million Americans who now call themselves birdwatchers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hill has written a thoroughly delightful book about the adventure."—St. Petersburg Times

"This entertaining, unpretentious read should have wide appeal. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"A fun, compelling story, another tantalizing bit of the Ivory-bill puzzle that will help to keep this icon alive in the minds of birders. This book might just also keep this magnificent bird alive in the forests of the Southeast."—Jerome A. Jackson, Florida Gulf Coast University

"Interesting and exciting. Hill's writing about the acceptance of the sightings and the evolution of the search from 'science' into 'birding' is important and should be widely disseminated. This significant original contribution adds to our understanding of the issues and the search."—Peter Mott, former President, New York City Audubon Society

"Hill, an ornithologist at Auburn University,documents his own search for the ivory-billed in the northern panhandle of Florida."—cience News

"What a delight it was to read this book. Hill writes in a very intimate sytle, engaging his readers as if they were personal acquaintances, and the result is a text that holds one's attention throughout. I urge all birdwatchers to read this book."—David A. Christie, Ibis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195323467
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/22/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey E. Hill is Scharnagel Professor of Biology at Auburn University, Alabama. He is a published authority on plumage coloration, and the author of Red Bird in a Brown Bag, an OUP monograph published 2002.

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Table of Contents


Gone but Not Forgotten     3
A Most Improbable Discovery     13
From Possible to Certain     53
My Quandary     43
Is It a Miracle?     53
The Boynton Cutoff     73
Hunting Ivorybills in the Backyard     85
Let the Search Begin     97
Good Science, Bad Science, or No Science At All?     125
Tangible Evidence     143
The Mule     171
Voices in the Wilderness     185
Cat Out of the Bag     205
Return of the Lord God Bird     221
Epilogue: How to Be an Ivorybill Hunter     237
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