Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Debate Gets Ugly...and Personal

Not uncharacteristically, Mike Collins (aka Fishcrow) has chosen to air his dirty laundry in public. Specifically, he has chosen to openly criticize the editorial staff at PLoS ONE for refusing to publish has manuscript on "Flight mechanics of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker" after initially accepting it for publication. I will leave it to you to decide whether or not his complaints are warranted.

The ornithological and birding communities benefit directly from this public rift in that Collins has chosen to make his long-anticipated manuscript—replete with an abundance of in-flight video footage of large woodpeckers—available online (here). From the Introduction [.pdf]:
Videos were obtained during three encounters in which key field marks consistent with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker were observed, including footage of a cruising flight, two takeoffs into level flight, a short flight, a swooping takeoff, and a swooping landing. The flight mechanics of the birds in these videos are consistent with Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in terms of historical accounts, physiology, and empirical and physics-based models for flap rate. Various additional characteristics of the birds in the videos are consistent with Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, including apparent field marks, a massive bill, a large crest, and an exaggerated leaned-back posture while perched.
Rest assured that Collins’s text and accompanying videos will be dissected and discussed on blogs and in various online forums for months to come.

Last revised: 3/23/09.


Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

I thought the debate turned ugly and personal sometime back in 2005? Or 1972? Or 1961?

March 20, 2009 9:01 AM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

You have a valid point, Bill, in that the tone of the IBWO debate has been on a downward spiral for quite some time.

This title of this post was a specific reference Mike Collins's public accusations against named individuals on the editorial board/staff at PLoS ONE and his vile attacks on any ornithologist, birder, or organization who dares question the validity or interpretation of his reported findings.

March 20, 2009 10:12 AM  
Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Indeed, Mike has never been one to accept criticism with anything even remotely resembling professionalism, and this has alienated many of his earlier supporters.

Other than Mike's recent outbursts, I actually feel like things have toned down in the last year or so. The number of people taking a day-to-day interest has dropped way off, and many of the loudest disputants seems to have resigned ourselves to an intellectual stalemate regarding most topics until either the passage of the decades or some dramatic new breakthrough renders it all moot. The discussions about the Sheridan photo before it was confirmed as a fake were calm, mellow, and polite in comparison to what was happening in 2006 and 2007! And that forgery wasn't even the first in recent years (how can we forget "Mad" Bill Smith?), though it was the first to have taken in significant numbers of people who actually know something about birds.

"Mad Bill" reminds me... do you have any idea what happened to Birding Is Not A Crime? Did I miss a news item? The blog has not been updated in 10 months, and e-mails have gone unanswered. I fear there is an unhappy story behind this, but I know nothing.

March 20, 2009 10:30 AM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

Sorry, Bill, but I have no idea what's happened over at the BiNaC blog.

March 23, 2009 5:56 PM  

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