Singer Tract in Lousiana
Image by the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge Records
Image Taken by Arthur A. Allen, 1935
The Ivory-billed woodpecker was the third largest woodpecker in the world, and the largest north of Mexico. It was a huge black and white woodpecker that lived in forests in the south-east United States and Cuba. The woodpeckers in Cuba have a smaller bill and longer white stripes, so some consider it a different species. Ivory-billed woodpeckers had a gigantic white bill, which, despite its name, was made of bone. They used this bill to pull bark off dead trees to eat beetle larvae. When it still lived in its habitat, the Ivory-billed woodpecker’s beak was used to create decorations by Native Americans.
Why Are They Endangered?
Because of deforestation, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s population decreased to a great extent in the 1800s; so much that by the 20th century there was only a very small population left. The last accepted photo of an Ivory-billed woodpecker was taken in 1938 in the Singer tract of Louisiana. They were thought to have gone extinct around 1944. The Cuban Ivory-billed woodpecker also went extinct because of deforestation in 1986. There have been claimed sightings ever since, but most of these could not be validated. With the amount of sightings reported, it is surprising that none have been confirmed, and this points towards this woodpecker being gone forever. It is also likely that some of the sightings were of the pileated woodpecker, another, smaller woodpecker that lives in the same area. There also have been recordings of this woodpecker’s distinctive double knock peck, but these might also be other noises. It is uncertain if this woodpecker still lives, but after numerous sightings there have been some efforts to find this bird and protect it. We hope the Ivory-billed woodpecker is still out there, but with the evidence we have now, we can’t be sure.
Ivory-billed woodpecker, recorded by Arthur A. Allen, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Image taken by Arthur A. Allen
The Ivory-billed woodpecker may have gone extinct, like so many animals have and so many animals will if we don’t do something, because of deforestation. When we help conserve an endangered animal, we also help conserve its habitat and the other species that live there. This ultimately will help us have a more sustainable and healthy environment for all the animals and plants who live on Earth.
What Can You Do?
Other woodpeckers are also endangered because of habitat loss. The Imperial Woodpecker, another large woodpecker that lived in Mexico, went extinct sometime in the 1950s, and despite searches through their remaining habitat, has not been seen since. Because of this there aren’t many recordings or specimens, and not much is known about them. We need to raise awareness for the effects of deforestation for the woodpecker and other birds. You can also donate to organizations dedicated to protecting forests and to helping endangered woodpeckers.
Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ivory-billed_Woodpecker/overview
Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. (2018, September 24). Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/i/ivory-billed-woodpecker/
Kaufman, K., & 29, M. (2020, May 29). Ask Kenn Kaufman: Is the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Extinct? Retrieved September 27, 2020, from https://www.audubon.org/news/ask-kenn-kaufman-ivory-billed-woodpecker-extinct
the video above was recorded by Arthur A. Allen, and is courtesy of the Cornell Lab or Orninthology