- Federal Status: Endangered
- FL Status: Federally-designated Endangered
- FNAI Ranks: GH (Historically Occurred, May be Rediscovered)
- IUCN Status: CR (Critically Endangered)
The ivory-billed woodpecker is the largest species of woodpecker north of Mexico (Alsop 2002). Its length ranges from 18-20 inches (46-51 centimeters) with a wingspan range of 29-31.5 inches (76-80 centimeters). This species has a pale ivory-colored bill, black face and chin, and two white stripes that run from both sides of the head down to the lower back where they connect. Males have a red crest and females have a black crest, but both are curved and pointed. The ivory-billed woodpecker also has white secondary feathers which give the appearance of a white saddle on its back.
The diet of the ivory-billed woodpecker primarily consists of beetle larvae.
Courtship occurs in December with nest building commencing in late January. Nesting cavities are constructed in live or dead bald cypress trees in Florida, and hardwood trees in the Mississippi River Delta. On occasion they will nest in dead pines, bay, and cabbage palms. The Florida population excavates nest cavities about 50 feet (15 meters) from the ground. Breeding generally occurs between the months of January and May, with females laying one to four eggs. Both parents share incubation duties; however, the incubation time is unknown. Juvenile birds stay in the nest for five weeks with the male mainly caring for the nestlings. Young birds can stay with their parents into the next nesting season (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, n.d.).
The ivory-billed woodpecker inhabits cypress swamps and mature bottomland forest (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology 2011). It can be found from the Ohio River Valley, west to Texas, and east to Florida (Alsop 2002). The last reported sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker were in 2004 in Arkansas and in 2005 along the Choctawhatchee River in northwest Florida; however, a confirmed sighting has not occurred since 1944. Historically, ivory-billed woodpeckers were found throughout Florida (Stevenson and Anderson 1994).
Habitat destruction caused a serious depletion of the ivory-billed woodpecker population to the point that the species may be extinct. Presently, habitat destruction would be the main continued threat to the species, as it depends on cypress and dead pine trees for nesting cavities.
Conservation and Management
The ivory-billed woodpecker is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is also protected as an Endangered species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a Federally-designated Endangered species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.
Alsop, F. J. (2002). Birds of Florida. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley Inc. 400pp
Stevenson, H.M., and B.H. Anderson. 1994. The Birdlife of Florida. Univ. Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (n.d.). Ivory-billed woodpecker. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from All About Birds: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ivory-billed_Woodpecker/id
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Ivory-billed woodpecker Campephilus principalis. Retrieved July 21, 2011, from South Florida Ecological Services Office: http://www.fws.gov/verobeach/MSRPPDFs/IvoryBilledWoodpecker.pdf