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Searchers key in on ivory-billed woodpecker habitat

Elvis. That is the nickname that Larry Mallard, refuge manager for the White River National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Arkansas, uses for the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis ), now being sought in Mallard's woods by Cornell Lab of Ornithology staffers and volunteers.

Mallard betrays a hint of mixed feelings: He has been managing the area for other endangered species, but only since the woodpecker's rediscovery has the refuge's conservation needs received any attention.

"Elvis is the rock star," said Mallard about the elusive woodpecker. "It's one thing to have endangered species. It's another thing to have a species that's been gone for 60 years that reappeared." But he fully appreciates that the bird has brought attention, and could bring money, to the area in an era when national wildlife refuge budgets are low. "You've got to take advantage of what comes along."

The bottomland forest of Arkansas, called the Big Woods, encompasses 550,000 acres, 130 miles long and up to 15 miles wide, and includes both the Cache River and the White River National Wildlife Refuges (NWR). Cornell has led two searches since the bird's rediscovery in February 2004 in a section of the Cache River NWR called the Bayou DeView, near Brinkley, Ark. The goal of the current search, which began in November, is to find an ivory-billed woodpecker and its roost or nest, which the bird will return to repeatedly, allowing for in-depth study of its habits.

The area's habitat is well-suited for the woodpecker because its dead and dying hardwoods -- tupelo, oak, sycamore, sweet pecan and sweet gum trees -- attract the giant insect grubs that the bird eats. Few other mature, old-growth forests remain in the Southeast due to logging and the growth of agriculture in the 20th century.

The habitat also has plenty of cypress trees (a conifer) that provide holes for the birds to roost or nest in.

There have been 18 credible sightings of the ivo
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Contact: Blaine Friedlander Jr.
bpf2@cornell.edu
607-254-8093
Cornell University News Service
23-Dec-2005


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