Big Woods Finds Big Woodpecker

    April 28, 2005

Reports of the death of the ivory-billed woodpecker were premature. The rare woodpecker, listed as “presumed extinct” on the Audubon Society website has been spotted in the Big Woods region of eastern Arkansas.

“The bird captured on video is clearly an Ivory-billed Woodpecker,” said John Fitzpatrick, the Science article’s lead author, and director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. “Amazingly, America may have another chance to protect the future of this spectacular bird and the awesome forests in which it lives.”

The reports from the website of the journal Science discusses the rediscovery of one of the world’s largest woodpeckers, found in wetland/woodland areas. The last confirmed sighting was in mid 1940s in Louisiana The find of this Campephilus principalus excites ornithologists and bird watchers everywhere

The shy woodpecker covered most of the southeast at one time ranging from Texas to North Carolina. Widespread logging during the turn of the last century helped eliminate habitat for the bird. No sightings had been confirmed after 1944 although many individuals claimed to have seen the bird.

The biggest problem with spotting these birds has been their similarity to the much more common pileated woodpecker. Their coloring and size is similar although the ivory-billed is larger. The feeding habits are also a major difference and that’s why the pileated has done so much better in second growth forests.

“It is a landmark rediscovery,” said Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Arkansas chapter. ” Finding the ivory-bill in Arkansas validates decades of great conservation work and represents an incredible story of hope for the future.”

During the press conference, the Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton was there to discussing ongoing efforts for habitat and species recovery.

“These programs are the heart and soul of the federal government’s commitment to cooperative conservation. They are perfectly tailored to recover this magnificent bird,” Secretary Norton said. “Across the Nation, these programs preserve millions of acres of habitat, improve riparian habitat along thousands of miles of streams, and develop conservation plans for endangered species and their habitat.”

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.