Is an animal or a bird? extinct if no one has seen it in nearly 80 years? Or is it just good at hiding from those who look for it?
That’s a question the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to answer about a large bird called the ivory-billed woodpecker.
No one has seen it since 1944.
The woodpecker is on the critical endangered list for a number of years. At the moment, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to decide if it is no longer alive. If considered extinct, it would no longer be protected by the US government.
The bird is one of the largest woodpeckers. It once lived in the ancient forests of the southern US. However, the logging industry destroyed the bird’s habitat or habitat.
Some birdwatchers think the birds still live deep in the remaining forests and swamps in the American South. Those places are hard to reach. And no one has seen the ivory-billed woodpecker in nearly 80 years.
Christian Cooper is an experienced bird watcher. He called the woodpecker “something of a” Holy Grail of North American birdwatching.”
“Even though it’s almost 95 percent sure it’s gone, there is that” slim probability that there is still a population, small population, in some still to be found at a distance swampy forest in the south.”
The bird was placed on a list of 23 types which may have gone extinct last September. But after many birders complained, the agency decided to postpone its decision on the woodpecker from September to March 2023.
But birdwatchers only have until August 7 to provide photographic evidence that the woodpeckers are still alive.
Cooper noted that a research group led by the National Aviary in Pittsburgh recently said it had found evidence of the bird in Louisiana, using unmanned cameras and listening to its special call. The group won’t say the area of the study because it hopes to keep the birds safe. The study has not been fully examined by other bird experts.
Ian Fischer is a spokesperson for US Fish and Wildlife. He said there are many”passion… for this bird … but unfortunately there is no clear evidence that it is alive.”
The species on the proposed extinction list are: a fruit bat, 11 birds including the woodpecker, eight freshwater mussels and two species of fish.
Cooper expressed some hope that the mystery bird might not be extinct.
‘So, is the bird gone? Is the bird still there? No one can say for sure, but there is always hope.”
I’m Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a Reuters report and his own coverage.
Words in this story
extinct– adj. no longer existing
critical –adjective extremely important
swamp -n. land that is always wet and sometimes covered with water
Holy Grail – n. something you really want, but is very hard to get
slim -adjective small or limited
at a distance -adjective far away or far away
types -n. a group of animals or plants that resemble each other
passion -n. a strong sense of enthusiasm
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