The Ivory-billed Woodpecker has long been considered by bird-watching enthusiasts to be “The Holy Grail” of bird watching. The bird is an extremely rare member of the woodpecker family, and is officially listed as an endangered species and even considered extinct by many people.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker made headlines back in 2004 when a kayaker in Arkansas reported seeing one. In 2005 a team led by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology also reported spotting the elusive bird. In September 2006, a team of ornithologists from Auburn University and the University of Windsor also published a paper detailing evidence for the existence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in northwest Florida. In 2006, a $10,000 reward was offered for any information that leads researchers to an Ivory-bill nest.
In order to get conclusive evidence that the Ivory-Billed is not extinct, scientists have placed two cameras deep in the bayous of eastern Arkansas. The robotic video cameras stand watch, waiting for a glimpse of the mysterious bird, aiming to capture conclusive evidence that the ivory-billed woodpecker is not, as long feared, extinct.
The cameras shoot 22 frames per second with about two to three megapixels per frame. The cameras stay protected from the harsh elements with waterproof gear and remain connected to a computer that processes the data in search of the bird.
The cameras are part of a new project funded by the National Science Foundation to create automated observatories that can capture natural behavior in remote settings.
“Our idea is that robots can be useful for advancing science,” said University of California Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, with its characteristic white beak and red crest, is a very large and extremely rare member of the woodpecker family, Picidae. The Ivory-billed measures from 19” to 21” in length with a wingspan of about 30 inches and weighs 1.0 to 1.25 lb.