(Monroe, Louisiana, Saturday April 16th) This possibility is very hot news! To an ornithologist and most naturalists it would be the single most exciting sound to hear. A ‘kent’? What on Earth is that? The kent is one of the trade-mark calls of one of the world’s most elusive birds, Campephilus principalis, The Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The debate whether kents can still be heard on Earth is something that is urgently required according to one of its most passionate advocates, ornithologist Matt Courtman. The presence of a CNN news crew at his presentation shows it to be worthy of national attention.
New Ivorybill Kent Recording Announced
During his comprehensive illustrated presentation at Monroe’s Biedenharn Museum on Thursday, April 14th, Matt tantalized us with news of his own recording, made April 12th at an undisclosed location in Madison Parish.
The kent is an onomatopoeia, named after its own sound. A kent sounds rather like a children’s toy horn and we first heard a recording of some at The Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge near Tallulah, Louisiana. This recording was made back in 1940’s and this refuge is thought to be one of the bird’s last homes. More recent recordings have been made. At the Biedenharn, Matt played us an example of one dating from 2005, but he reserved his own recording. He also played ornithologist Arthur Allen’s famous film of the birds at their nest hole and we were charmed by the delightfully quirky birds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, rather controversially proposed that the species Campephilus principalis be declared extinct in September 2021 causing great concern among those who believe that it may be extant in the deeper bottomland forest regions of Louisiana. Matt Courtman spoke briefly at a virtual public hearing held on January 26, 2022 and though the public comment period ended February 10, 2022, there is still plenty of scope for further debate according to Matt. A final decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is due by September 2022.
While listing of the bird as extinct would draw attention to the disastrous collapse in the US bird population, apparently we’ve lost about a third of our songbirds since that film was made, in order to declare it as extinct there has to have been sufficient exploration of its home habitat and this is not yet the case, according to Matt.
He advocates for legislation that would encourage landowners to report sightings of the bird without fear of Federal restrictions and appeals to hunters and other people of the woods to keep an eye out for the birds. He and his wife conduct environmental education in schools and the public arena.
The issue is important because it is thought that the endangered species needs large contiguous tracts of woodland for its continued survival. The potential presence of the bird helps protect habitat that is home for thousands of other species. As we are experiencing one of history’s worst biodiversity crises, this very attractive woodpecker is an important icon for endangered wildlife.
Matt Courtman’s presentation was both entertaining , educational and thorough, this subject has been a passion since childhood, he was a distinguished birder at the tender age of eight years old, has contributed to field guides and formerly served as President of the Louisiana Ornithological Society (LOS)!
The divergence of opinion regarding the possible survival of this bird has caused strong feelings on both sides of the divide. This Easter I pray that the search for the Ivorybills continues and dare hope that proof of rediscovery might heal any rifts that may now exist among ornithologists who have far more to unite them, than divide them.