Biologists to Tour EastArk Swamps by Helicopter in Search of Woodpecker

BRINKLEY, AR - Biologists plan to tour the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge by helicopter next week, in the hopes that a view from the sky will give them a glimpse of the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker.

A 10-day tour is scheduled to start Monday in Monroe County.

Arkansas Game & Fish Commission spokesman Keith Stephens says biologists will be able to cover a large area by helicopter.

Already thought to be extinct, the woodpecker was reportedly spotted by Cornell University researchers in 2004 in an eastern Arkansas swamp.  Researchers and birders have since converged on the Cache River Wildlife Management Area hoping to spot the huge bird and hear its distinct double-rapping.

Since the Cornell researchers reported spotting the bird in 2004, searchers traveling by boat and by foot have managed to cover about 13 percent of the forested habitat in the Arkansas Big Woods.  The helicopter tour will include officials from Game and Fish, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nature Conservancy and some volunteers from Cornell.

The searchers will have cameras with telephoto lenses and other equipment, so they can scan the swamps as they fly about 200 feet above.  Weather permitting, the helicopter trips will continue for 10 days as searchers scour more than 100,000 acres.

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