Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Probably Unprofitable

 Now the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) has been presumed extinct for decades and was officially declared as such in 1994....Cornell University has an outstanding offer of $50,000 to anyone who can lead their researchers to an indisputably living, breathing Ivory-billed.

The bird alit on the trunk of a honey locust next to the road and started its rapid thonk-thonk-thonk, but it was cagey enough to stay on the side I couldn’t see....Since Ivory-billed Woodpeckers live (or lived) primarily in the southeastern US and the Caribbean I wasn’t expecting any big miracle here. It turned out that, yes, what I had spotted was actually a ringer for it, the perfectly common Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). A true Ivory-billed would have been even larger — about 20 inches long with a 30-inch wingspan — and would have had more white on the top near its tail. In addition it had a doubled pecking rhythm whereas the bird I saw and heard kept things perfectly even.

There’s an Ivory-billed lookalike that’s larger yet, and again rare if not extinct: the Imperial Woodpecker (C. imperialis). Their traffic-stopping appearance sped their final demise as it encouraged people to shoot them simply out of curiosity. The last confirmed live specimen was dispatched in this manner in Mexico in 1956 (specifically Durango, where The Treasure of Sierra Madre had been filmed a decade earlier), so you might keep a semi-jaundiced eye out for this bird, too.


diminishing returns - thesaurus entry


a situation in which benefits or profits do not increase enough to make it worth making more effort or spending more money


Not providing profit: unprofitable, uneconomic, loss-making, uneconomical, unhealthy, non-profit, not-for-profit, untapped, dull, underfunded...


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