Birders find no new confirmation of rare woodpecker in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Search teams exploring an eastern Arkansas swamp for better evidence of the ivory-billed woodpecker said today they haven't found new evidence to confirm the presence of the rare bird. But the researchers say they are still confident the woodpecker is out there somewhere.

Wildlife managers say there is no longer a reason to limit public access to the area.

Ron Rohrbaugh of the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, says he's disappointed that months of searching over the winter and spring did not result in another sighhting. The search will pause during warmer whether, when the Big Woods of east Arkansas is alive with snakes and other hazards.

Gene Sparling of Hot Springs reported seeing an ivory-billed woodpecker in the spring of 2004 while kayaking in the Big Woods area of eastern Arkansas, near the White River.

Researchers believe they have captured audio recordings of the rare bird -- accompanying a brief, grainy videotape of what is believed to be an ivory-billed woodpecker.

One volunteer searcher and three members of the public have reported seeing the bird, but none of the full-time researchers has sighted it. But researchers say they have knocks and calls that may be from the woodpecker.

Until Sparling's sighting, the last known sighting of the bird was in north Louisiana in 1944.

The National Audubon Society supports continuing search efforts for at least one more year.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)