Sunday, 30 October 2011

Imperial Woodpecker found on 1956 film but not on surveys to film location.

The largest woodpecker that ever lived and the closest relative of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker probably went extinct in Mexico in the late 20th century concludes a paper just published in the October 2011 issue of The Auk, the scientific journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union.

It was thought that no photos or film of the two-foot-tall, flamboyantly crested bird existed, until a biologist from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology tracked down a 16-mm film shot in 1956 by a dentist from Pennsylvania. The footage captures the last ever confirmed sighting of an Imperial Woodpecker.

The researchers not only restored the film to use it to describe the species’ behavior but also to study the habitat of the woodpecker by tracking down the exact filming location during a 2010 expedition to the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, in Mexico. This ’lost species’ survey, was co-funded by The British Birdwatching Fair – Founding Global Sponsor of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme. Pronatura (BirdLife in Mexico) helped with the expedition logistics.

“It is stunning to look back through time with this film and see the magnificent Imperial Woodpecker moving through its old-growth forest environment, and it is heartbreaking to know that both the bird and the forest are gone,” said Martjan Lammertink, lead author of the paper.

Read on ...

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