Shattered dreams

A recent Sylvia, the comic strip by Nicole Hollander


Of course the best evidence is that the ivory-billed woodpecker is extinct.

h/t: Steve


  1. Ben Hardisty
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    What about the old claim that they’re flourishing in certain parts of Cuba, also their natural habitat.

    • Thanny
      Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Different subspecies, and also thought to be extinct.

  2. Avis James
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I have heard that the suitable habitat for Ivory Billed Woodpeckers in Cuba has been destroyed. I have heard this from people are in the position to know.

    • bacopa
      Posted September 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      So sad to hear that. I was hoping it might still be alive in Cuba and could be introduced to national forests in Louisiana and Texas. Would have been good to see Huntsville get birding tourists. Only tourism they get up there is death penalty protesters.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 24, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Lol, imagining the state tourism campaign for that.

  3. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    There was a pretty good documentary a few years back called Ghost Bird, about the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker and a small town’s attempt to parlay the rumors into a self-perpetuating tourist industry.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted September 23, 2013 at 3:04 am | Permalink

      a small town’s attempt to parlay the rumors into a self-perpetuating tourist industry

      It works for Loch Ness.

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Seems to me (but what do I know?) that if an attempt to resurrect any extinct species were to be mounted, the Ivory-Bill would be a good one to start on. Enough DNA ought to be available from feather shafts of museum specimens to get a genomic sequence from, and then some fairly closely-related woodpecker’s genome could be used to start the work with. Plus, unlike mastodons, they could be considered dinosaurs as well.

    • jesse
      Posted September 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      It was mainly the lack of suitable habitat that led to its extinction (and I think it was always a rather rare species to begin with, but not sure on that). So it’s unlikely that bringing it back would serve any environmental/ecological purpose.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted September 23, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

        Ivory-bills have their own purposes, thank you very much!
        Also (and orthogonally) they’re awesome, and would be a very sought-after (and paid-for) item for ecotourists and [even!] zoos and private aviculturists, proceeds of which could be put to other more whole-grain, broad-acre, worthy but boring environmental/ecological purposes.
        I’ve seen this argument over and over, about thylacines and mammoths and Californian condors etc., and I always find the pessimistic, pro-extinction position to be both unimaginative and somewhat morally repugnant.

        • jesse
          Posted September 23, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

          “Morally repugnant”? Morally? Yikes.

          Never thought of the marketing/specialty angle tho. A venture capitalist I’ll never be!

          I guess it could create a few tech and marketing/advertising jobs and foster some trickle-down economics. I also guess the concept of Jurrassic Park is more firmly embedded in a couple of generations of the public now. I must be getting too old. Sigh.

        • jesse
          Posted September 23, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

          I gave it some more thought. I guess my comments and attitude about the subject come from having had college education in ecology, conservation, and biodiversity, plus seeing so much of the rural environment degrade due to human pressure and invasive species. (Just saw another logging truck yesterday, hauling away 200-year old oak boles [trunks], and thought of our lovely, local Pileated Woodpecker population, which like the IBW needs large trees to nest in.)

          Plus, I come from a time when most conservation was done by government for the purposes of managing wild or semi-wild places; and I was involved in a Native Plant Society. So my background and viewpoint are different from many of the people who have the real money and real power nowadays.

          Well, at least one good thing about Ivory-bill resurrection is that given their specialty needs for reproduction, they would be unlikely to become an invasive species if they escaped captivity.

          Monsanto probably already has a market research dept. on this topic.

          • John Scanlon, FCD
            Posted September 23, 2013 at 7:02 am | Permalink

            OK now we really are talking morally repugnant! Just imagine the lawsuits when some gator-wrassler finds sterile-hybrid Roundup-Ready™ Ivory-billed Woodpeckers breeding in his swamp.

          • Hempenstein
            Posted September 24, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

            From what I understand (but don’t know firsthand) the swampland in [Arkansas/Mississippi?) where the IBW hunts took place are vast, and only about 10% of that area was searched anyway, partly on account of dense foliage and water moccasins limiting the search window to Feb/Mar. That would seem to suggest that there’s at least some fairly extensive amount of habitat available.

            All that notwithstanding, it would seem to me to offer a great proof-of-concept effort. If IBW’s couldn’t be regenerated, then any bets on greatly more difficult projects ought to be abandoned as fantasy, at least for now.

            • jesse
              Posted September 24, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

              You know, I actually thought Scanlon was doing a sort of poe on me at first. But it made me think outside the box.

              I just don’t imagine the bourgeoning human population will allow trees to get large anymore. The minute they are use-able, they’ll be downed, even on govt. land. I just yesterday ran into a website that covered all the “improvement cuts” that the Nat. Park Service did at Gettysburg a few years ago, taking out loads of Witness Trees over 200 yrs old. They had pictures and all. It shocked and outraged many people.

              [On a personal note, I had a forester come and do a state-mandated “improvement cut” on my 15A of woods. If I had not followed him around, he would have marked a huge red oak that had an active Red-Tailed Hawk nest in it. I literally stopped his hand as it sprayed the orange paint. Also, he didn’t even know what a Pileated Woodpecker WAS. The forestry dept. (at the Big Ten college I went to) is in the College of Ag, not LAS, so that tells you the courses he would have taken. My state managed forest plan for my land was written to promote wildlife, but in the end its goal is really to improve timber stands for harvest and improve state commerce. But when you only get $30 for a huge bigtooth aspen at the end of its life — at an age when it is best for breeding wood ducks and woodpeckers — and when the logging project ends up being a financial wash for the owner, is it worth the disruption of the forest with machinery coming in and spreading invasive seeds with mud on the tires?
              BTW, many people reading this will not be aware that during logging of deciduous trees, the only part hauled away is the trunk from ground up to the first branch or so. The rest is left at the site. These are some issues I faced during the logging procedure.]

              Anyway, the cartoon was VERY funny. The “I was hoping to eat one” line gave me the giggles. Hempenstein, seems to me you are familiar with one of the Dakotas. Is it true that the only trees people see there are telephone poles?

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