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Originally published April 28, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 28, 2005 at 11:23 AM

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Rare woodpecker found in Arkansas

Researchers from Cornell University, along with others, reportedly have found the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas...

The Ithaca (N.Y.) Journal

ITHACA, N.Y. — Researchers from Cornell University, along with others, reportedly have found the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas, a rare bird that was last seen in the United States in the 1940s and was believed to have become extinct.

The news of the woodpecker sighting in the Mississippi River lowlands was confirmed yesterday by Thomas Bruce, Cornell's vice president for communications and media relations.

The university refused to release any further details yesterday about the woodpecker, and a message left at its Lab of Ornithology was not returned.

The journal Science was to release information about the woodpecker finding today.

The ivory-billed woodpecker is known as an ornithologist's "Holy Grail," and a number of books have been written on the searches for it in Southern states.

The bird is known for its impressive size, measuring up to 20 inches in length. According to the Audubon Society Watch List, the woodpecker is a large, black and white bird with white wing patches and a stripe down the side of its neck and continuing down the back. The birds also have a "large, chisel-tipped" ivory bill, according to the Audubon Society. Male birds have red crests, and females have black heads and crests.

John Dumbacher, the curator for birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, said the ivory-billed woodpecker was thought to have met the same fate as other birds like the passenger pigeon and the Carolina parakeet, both of which are extinct. As more and more forests were logged and cleared, a handful of North American species disappeared, he said. The ivory-billed woodpecker inhabited forests in the southeastern United States and Cuba.

The last confirmed sighting of the bird in the world came in 1988 in the Sierra de Moa mountains of eastern Cuba, according to the Audubon Society.

In 1999, a student at Louisiana State University reported a sighting of two ivory-billed woodpeckers in that state's Pearl River region, according to Cornell's Lab of Ornithology Web site. That sighting led to a search for the bird in 2002, but no woodpeckers were found.

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