Monday, February 19, 2007

Robot twitcher to scan skies for rare bird

The world's first robot twitcher has joined the hunt for the ivory-billed woodpecker. The device's inventors hope it will come up with the first hard evidence for the elusive bird's existence, and say it could monitor other rare species.
Hopes in the world of ornithology had been raised in 2004 by a tantalising video apparently showing an example of the ivory-billed woodpecker, previously believed to have died out in the 1930s in swampy forest in the south-eastern US.
But researchers could not agree on whether the blurred images were the real thing or a similar species, the pileated woodpecker. To settle the issue, a robotic bird-watcher will scan the skies continuously in the hope it will crack the "holy grail of bird-watching" with video proof.
"A single photographic frame would have to clearly show the unique markings of the ivory-billed woodpecker," said Ken Goldberg at the University of California, Berkeley.

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