The large woodpecker back from the dead?
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is an extremely rare member of the woodpecker family, Picidae. It is officially listed as an endangered species, but by the end of the 20th century had widely been considered extinct until it was apparently sighted along the Cache River in Arkansas in 2004 and 2005.
Inhabiting the bottomland hardwoods and montane pine forests of southeastern United States and Cuba, this woodpecker population has suffered as its habitat was cleared for agriculture and lumber. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is sometimes referred to as the Grail Bird, the Lord God Bird, or the Good God Bird.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a large black and white woodpecker. Males have a red crest; females have a black head and crest. White wing patches and a stripe down the side of its neck continuing down its back distinguish it from the Pileated Woodpecker.
It does not undulate like other woodpeckers when it flies, but rather flies swiftly like a pintail duck. Its drum is a single or double rap, and its alarm call, a 'kent' or 'hant' sounding like a toy trumpet repeated in a series or as a double note. Ivory-billeds are known to prefer thick hardwood swamps and pine forests, with large amounts of dead and decaying trees.
Ivory-bills remove bark by chipping it with their bills in repeated blows. The Ivory-bill leaves pits in trees similar to those created by Pileated Woodpeckers, but these lead to beetle larvae tunnels not carpenter ants.
Arkansas has made license plates featuring a graphic of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Only one bird was seen in Arkansas 2004 and 2005. The bird was videotaped and seen by several people. However, the identity of the bird in the videotape has been questioned.
The search continues in Arkansas and in other parts of the bird’s range. It was assessed as extinct by the IUCN in 1994. This assessment was later altered to 'critically endangered' on the grounds that the species could still be extant.