Ivory-billed Woodpecker

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Campephilus p. principalis
Campephilus p. bairdii

Picus principalis Linnaeus, 1758

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is or was one of the largest woodpeckers in the world, at roughly 20 inches in length and 30 inches in wingspan. Native to the virgin forests of the southeastern United States (along with a separate subspecies native to Cuba), due to habitat destruction and to a lesser extent hunting, its numbers have dwindled to the point where it is uncertain whether any remain. The species is listed as critically endangered and possibly extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).[1] The American Birding Association lists the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as a Class 6 species, a category they define as "definitely or probably extinct." [2]

Reports of at least one male Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Arkansas in 2004 were investigated and subsequently published in April 2005 by a team led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (Fitzpatrick et al., 2005). No definitive confirmation of those reports emerged, despite intensive searching over five years following the initial sightings.

In June 2006, a $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to the discovery of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker nest, roost or feeding site.[3] In December 2008, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced a reward of $50,000 to the person who can successfully lead a project biologist to a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

In late September 2006, a team of ornithologists from Auburn University and the University of Windsor published reports of their own sightings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers along the Choctawhatchee River in northwest Florida, beginning in 2005 (Hill et al., 2006). These reports were accompanied by evidence that the authors themselves considered suggestive for the existence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Searches in this area of Florida through 2009 failed to produce definitive confirmation.

Despite these high-profile reports from Arkansas, Florida, and sporadic reports elsewhere in the historic range of the species since the 1940s, there is no conclusive evidence for the continued existence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker; i.e., there are no unambiguous photographs, videos, specimens, or DNA samples from feathers or feces of the Ivory-billed. However, to protect any possible surviving individuals, land acquisition and habitat restoration efforts have been initiated in certain areas where there is a relatively high probability that the species may have survived.

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