Even more encouraging are the rediscoveries of species thought to be extinct (Table 21-1). Among them, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has by far the highest profile. Last seen for sure in 1944 in the Singer tract of Louisiana, the majestic Ivory-billed Woodpecker, or Lord God Bird, is the signature species of the old-growth bottomland forests of the southeastern United States (Figure 21-7). One of the largest woodpeckers in the world, the Ivory-bill first was hunted by Native Americans and then was collected as a desireable rarity by early ornithologists. Critical bottomland forests were cut. Despite regular reports of sightings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, in teh absence of any confirming photograph, Ivory-bills became as legendary and elusive as Elvis himself.
Then, a report by a kayaker in southeastern Arkansas on February 11, 2004, followed by 4 seconds of video, sparked fevered excitement, renewed hope, and led to a public media blitz in April 2005 (Fitzpatrck et al. 2005). Field teams searched the bottomlands. Additional land was secured to protect the ecosystem. Local entrepreneurs and townships profited from the rush of ecotourism. But the woodpecker disappeared, prompting professional debates and doubts (Sibley et al. 2006; Fitzpatrick et al. 2006; Jackson 2006). This spike of rediscovery, however, revitalized the hopes of conservationists everywhere. Other lost species also might survive if such a large and dramatic species as this one could persist undetected for 60 years (pp. 651-52).
Interestingly, there is a questionmark next to the rediscovery year in the table of rediscovered birds thought to be extinct for at least 50 years.