Author Paul Johnsgard to open rare bird exhibit at NU State Museum

Released on 05/06/2005, at 2:00 AM
Office of University Communications
University of Nebraska–Lincoln

WHEN: Saturday, May. 21, 2005, through Sep. 30, 2005

WHERE: University of Nebraska State Museum (Morrill Hall), 14th and U Streets

Lincoln, Neb., May 6th, 2005 —

Noted ornithologist and author Paul A. Johnsgard will give a talk May 21 at the University of Nebraska State Museum, opening the exhibit "The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and the Eskimo Curlew."

The exhibit will feature historic specimens of the birds from the museum's zoology research collections and will open with a program from 2-4 p.m. May 21 at the museum in Morrill Hall, 14th and U streets. Johnsgard, foundation professor emeritus of the School of Biological Sciences and adjunct professor in the State Museum at UNL, will discuss the significance of these species in a talk beginning at 2:15 p.m., and will be available to answer questions from the audience.

On April 28, researchers reported in the journal Science's online Science Express edition ( the discovery of a living ivory-billed woodpecker in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. The bird had been considered extinct since there had been no sightings of it for 60 years. The NU State Museum has two specimens of ivory-billed woodpeckers, a male and a female, that were originally taxidermy mounts that belonged to the Department of Zoology at UNL. When Johnsgard first saw them in 1961, they were misidentified, and he provided the correct identification for the museum. Museum director Priscilla Grew said there is no information available on their place of origin or date of acquisition. She said it is probable that they have been at the university for at least a century.

The ivory-billed woodpecker is a relative of the large and similar pileated woodpecker, which will also be on exhibit so that viewers can make comparisons between the species. The pileated woodpecker, although rare in Nebraska, has nested in recent years both at Indian Cave State Park and Fontenelle Forest. There are no historic records of ivory-billed woodpeckers being sighted in Nebraska.

Another extremely rare or possibly now-extinct species, the Eskimo curlew, will also be on display. It regularly appeared in large numbers in the eastern third of Nebraska in the 19th century, but was last seen in the state with certainty in April 1926 near Norfolk. The last museum specimen known from North America was collected April 17, 1915, also near Norfolk. The NU State Museum has one of the last of these birds that was collected in Nebraska on April 20, 1911.

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore of Lincoln photographed the ivory-billed woodpecker and the Eskimo curlew specimens in the museum. Prints of his photographs will be displayed with the specimens. The new exhibit is located on the third floor of Morrill Hall adjacent to the Cooper Gallery, where Sartore's photography exhibit, "Fragile Nature," continues through Sept. 30.

Admission to the NU State Museum is $8 for families, $4 for individual adults and $2 for children, or free with a valid UNL ID or Friends of the State Museum membership. For more information, telephone (402) 472-2642 or visit the NU State Museum Web site (

CONTACT: Willo Stuart, Special Projects Coordinator, NU State Museum, (402) 472-3779