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Ivory-Billed Woodpecker :: An Avian Diplomat

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An Avian Diplomat

If you think that only a small miracle would get a U.S. federal worker to sit in a meeting with Cuban scientists, you may be partly right. In 2004 and 2005, a series of miraculous (though contested) sightings of ivory-billed woodpeckers, long thought extinct, made headlines nationwide, fueling a search for the bird in the swamps of Arkansas. Largely unreported was the long-running saga of the birds’ southern relatives in Cuba. In the 1980s, scientists recorded fleeting evidence of the ivory-bill in Cuban forests, and some believe an elusive Cuban population persists.

In recent years, biologists from both countries have been swapping information on the ivory-bill at collaborative meetings—some attended informally by U.S. officials. The scientists hope intergovernmental partnerships will arise—perhaps through an inspiring group called Partners in Flight.

Formed in 1990, Partners is a loose collaboration stitched together by the habits of birds, which can travel from as far north as Canada to wintering grounds in places like Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela. Extraordinary connections have formed among biologists, NGOs, and governments in these countries. They are encouraging shade-grown coffee plantations designed to support bird habitat, and exchanges among students and scientists. Above all, they share a powerful collective purpose—to protect birds.


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Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Audubon woodpeckers
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The DIY Foreign Policy Heroes are part of A Just Foreign Policy, the Summer 2008 issue of YES! Magazine.
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