Rare Ivory Billed Woodpecker Spotted?



This is an interesting development in the search for the extremely rare Ivory Billed Woodpecker, excerpted from the Gulf Times in Florida.  This elusive bird, once believed to be extinct, is said to have been sighted on more than one occasion in recent years:

RARE bird is ‘seen’ in Florida

Friday, September 29, 2006-Florida’s Gulf Times

WASHINGTON: Scientists say they have spotted the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker 14 times in the last year in the Florida panhandle, raising hope that the rare bird is truly back from the brink of extinction.  “The bird just flew over my head; I was in my kayak and it was just above me, going away,” said Geoffrey Hill of Auburn University, whose team spied the bird in the flooded forests along the Choctawhatchee River in May 2005.  Hill said he was within 9m of the woodpecker at that sighting, but failed to get a photograph, a key piece of evidence to document the bird’s comeback. 

“It’s a hard bird to get a photograph of,” Hill said by telephone late on Wednesday. “My excuse, and we are making excuses because we had a chance last year to get a picture, is that we had insufficient personnel and insufficient equipment. We could have gotten lucky. It didn’t happen.”  Bird experts had deemed the ivory bill — a crow-sized creature with a characteristic white beak, a red crest and a 76cm wingspan — extinct for half a century until one was seen in eastern Arkansas in 2004.  With great fanfare, the Audubon Society and the journal of Science declared in 2005 that the woodpecker was back, but despite repeated sightings, there has been no iron-clad proof of its existence, such as a clear photograph.

In research published online in Avian Conservation and Ecology, a Canadian journal, Hill and his colleagues reported 14 sightings and 41 sounds that matched descriptions of the acoustics of the ivory bill.  They also recorded what sounded like 99 double knock and 210 kent calls, both characteristic sounds produced by the ivory bill.  But that may not be enough to convince sceptics, Hill said. “I don’t expect the ornithological community to accept this as definitive.” 

John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who has led the search for the woodpecker in Arkansas, hailed the Florida find as strong evidence.  “It’s tantalising, it’s suggestive, it’s not conclusive, but in the aggregate, evidence is strong that the bird is there,” Fitzpatrick said in a telephone interview.  “I just believe that it is a very important priority for us to search all of the places where this bird may be hanging on, and once and for all find out where they still exist, if they do.”

The bird’s former range stretched from east Texas to the Carolinas and Florida and north as far as Arkansas and southern Illinois, he said. – Reuters




How to Spot an Ivory Billed Woodpecker


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides excellent research and information on this highly sought after species.  Here is a brief description on how to recognize this bird in it’s natural habitat.


Distinguishing between Ivory-billed and Pileated woodpeckers

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is the third largest woodpecker in the world, and the largest woodpecker north of Mexico. At 18 to 20 inches tall, it has a wingspan of 30 to 31 inches and weighs 16 to 20 ounces. The bird has a jet black body with large white patches on the wings. A white stripe extends from below each yellow-colored eye, down the sides of the neck and onto the sides of its back. When the wings are folded, it appears that there is a large “shield” of white on the lower back of an ivory-bill. The males have a brilliant red color at the back of their crests, which curves back, whereas the females have a black crest that curves forward.

Because the Ivory-billed Woodpecker looks superficially similar to the slightly smaller and more common Pileated Woodpecker, successful identification requires knowing about the distribution, behaviors, and field marks of both species.
For side-by-side comparisons of Ivory-billed and Pileated woodpecker distributions, habitats, field marks, and sounds, read “Identifying and Reporting an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.”
Learn more by visiting the profiles of both species on the All About Birds web site.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker


If we had any these elusive beasts on RS land they would most likely be out here:  Our Green’s Thoroughfare Island property, the largest island in the Neuse River (and part of the NCCLT Turkey Quarter Preserve). 

If you see one out there, lets us know!:  919-755-9490