DVD: Ghost Bird

Ghost Bird

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Ghost Bird is Scott Crocker’s 2010 documentary about a formerly extinct bird called the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. The bird was thought to have been extinct since the 1920’s, until several people claimed they spotted the bird in Brinkley, AR in 2004.

Immediately we are taken into the world of “birders,” where a discovery of this magnitude certainly made a tremendous stir.  First, we discover how the town of Brinkley got back on the map due to international media buzz surrounding this “icon of the primeval forest.” We then learn of the birds’ history and specific characteristics through interweaving sequences of interviews with ornithologists, bird-watchers and reporters. Through these interviews with both skeptics and hopefuls, we are subtly asked to form our own conclusions on whether or not the bird does still exist, and just how important scientific proof is in this matter.

Since the first ivory-billed spotting, people across the country wrote and called in claiming they witnessed seeing the bird as well, but coincidentally, no one was able to produce a valid photograph or video. The initial sightings were based upon a video and an audio tape which later were proved flawed by several experts in the field. Specifically, critics stated the bird briefly seen in the video was a Pileated Woodpecker, which has a very similar appearance to the Ivory-Billed.

This rebuttal disappointed many birders, but it didn’t stop the media circus. For example, despite the findings being disproved by many, the Bush administration put money into conservation efforts for the bird; money that was taken from other wildlife/endangered species groups. In 2007, $27 million was proposed in saving the ivory-billed, although sources never revealed where this money came from.

We also see in the film that the people who truly love birds are the ones least willing to accept the woodpecker’s existence without scientific proof, while those who do believe it exists are simply hoping more money pours into Arkansas.

Overall, I found this documentary very enticing and informative. After watching, you’ll have learned quite a few things about the extinct bird, as well as affairs involving endangered species in general (Over 140 bird species have disappeared because of human involvement, for example.) I also found it odd that the sightings were in Arkansas; the same location where recently dead birds have been falling from the sky.

The DVD includes over forty minutes of extra scenes and features music by the Black Heart Procession, the Black Keys and The Pixies.

“When the last individual of a race of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.” – William Beebe

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