Saturday, May 14, 2005


I had never heard of the ivory-billed woodpecker. Once thought extinct, this bird has become a national celebrity in the United States since it was announced at the end of April that it still exists. Gale Norton, the interior secretary, recently declared that $10 million dollars will be made available to expand the bird's habitat. She said "that second chances to save wildlife once thought to be extinct are rare." Yes, Gale Norton is the same person who once referred to the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge as a "great white nothingness." She is also part of an administration that is arguably the worst environmental predator in at least a generation.

I am not a bird authority or even an amateur bird watcher, but I've gotten caught up in this Lazarus-like reappearance of a bird who, before last year, had not been seen in more than 60 years. Of course, we Americans love those mythic accounts of second chances, as well as the "rags to riches" stories. And, yes, this bird has some serious "grit."

For anyone that wants to learn more about this remarkable creature, you might begin by going to the Nature Conservancy link. As well, I'd also recommend a beautifully written article in the NY Times on May 3, 2005 by Jonathan Rosen entitled "The Woodpecker in All of Us." ( )

Literally and metaphorically, it seems to me, the ivory-billed woodpecker is about hope. I'd also toss in a little redemption as well. After all, it's we humans that destroyed the bird's habitat in the first place. The possibility of preserving and protecting this animal is likely up to us. In the process, we might end up helping other species ... including our own.

The title of this article comes from the ivory-bills vocalization that ornithologists transcribe as kent, kent, kent. Will it again become a common sound in the hardwood forests it once called home? We certainly can hope so

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I heard about the bird story on the John Stewart Show on Commedy Central. Endangered Species Act is a piece of legislation that acts to protect? the intrinsic value of a speices? Its instrumental role in ecosystems? Or the projection of value that we, as humans, prescribe to something rare? I don't know where this administration's intentions arise from, but I will say that it does give hope to see actin being took to save habitats.