Ivory-billed Woodpecker
Southeast Region
Map of the Southeast Region Map of Kentucky Map of the Caribbean and Navassa Map of North Carolina Map of Tennessee Map of South Carolina Map of Arkansas Map of Louisiana Map of Mississippi Map of Alabama Map of Georgia Map of Florida

History

Ivory-bills inhabited large blocks of mature forests in the southeastern and Lower Mississippi Valley states: from North Carolina to Florida and west to eastern Texas and Arkansas. They also occurred in Cuba. Ornithologists believe that the species was never abundant since populations were limited by the availability of dying and recently dead trees for foraging, roosting, and nesting.

 

Original Limits. Credit: USFWS
Original Limits. Credit: USFWS
(click on image for larger image)
  1885 Limits.  Credit: USFWS
1885 Limits. Credit: USFWS
(click on image for larger image)

The Ivory-bill’s precipitous decline began in the latter half of the 19th century as forests were cleared for settlement and agriculture. Technology and the resource demands of two world wars increased the logging rate in the 20th century, further decimating habitat. In addition to excessive tree harvest, excessive collection of birds for commercial, recreational, scientific, and educational purposes also contributed to declines as the range became restricted.

By 1939, James Tanner estimated that 22–24 birds remained in the U.S. Today, only widely scattered, large remnants of mature, seasonally flooded forest provide potential habitat. Reforestation that has been occurring on public and private lands over the past two decades should provide more habitat as stands mature.

 


Post 1940s sightings

The last widely-accepted sightings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the United States were those that took place at the Singer Tract. However, there have been numerous intriguing reports if ivory-bills since that time.

John Dennis was a prominent woodpecker biologist who in 1948 snapped the last scientifically accepted photographs ever taken of an ivory-bill in Cuba. In 1966, Dennis reported seeing a female ivory-bill in The Big Thicket of east Texas, but his sighting could not be confirmed by subsequent searchers. While other promising reports, including fleeting glimpses and possible calls, have come from a variety of places, until the 2004 Arkansas sightings, no sightings have resulted in conclusive physical evidence.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker range map. Credit: USFWS
click on the map and go to the higher resolution .pdf

Fact Sheet: The "Singer Tract" and the "Last-Stand" for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

 


History of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker from the National Conservation Training Center

 

Last updated: March 10, 2010