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Wrynecks Woodpeckers and Piculets: Picidae

Ivory-billed Woodpecker (campephilus Principalis): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Ivory-billed woodpeckers are a very large woodpeckers that are mostly black with white streaks going down the neck on each side to the upper wing bases, a robust, chisel-tipped, ivory-white bill, a black forecrest, a white patch on the folded wing, and white secondary feathers and inner primary feathers. Males have a pointed crest (growth on top of head) that is black in front and scarlet behind. Females have a longer, more pointed, somewhat re-curved solid black crest. Adults are 18.5 to 21.0 inches (47 to 54 centimeters) long and weigh between 15.5 and 18.3 ounces (440 and 570 grams). Their wingspan is 30 to 32 inches (76.2 to 81.3 centimeters) long.

Geographic range: The birds are found in the southeastern United States from eastern Texas to North Carolina and south throughout Florida, and in Cuba.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers may be extinct, but researchers remain hopeful that the bird still survives. (Illustration by Gillian Harris. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Ivory-billed woodpeckers inhabit old-growth forests, especially bottomlands, swamp forests and cypress swamps, pine uplands, and areas with dead trees.

Diet: They eat arthropods, especially larvae of large wood-boring beetles, and fruits.

Behavior and reproduction: Ivory-billed woodpeckers have a territory of about 6 square miles (15.5 square kilometers). They are often seen in family groups. Their call is a sad-sounding single- or double-note tooting; one such sound is a clarinet-like "yank-yank-yank." The birds are monogamous. They breed from January through April in North America and March through June in Cuba. They build nest cavities in large dead trees or in live trees with fungus. Nests are usually built 24 to 50 feet (7.3 to 15.2 meters) off the ground with a cavity often 2 feet (6 meters) in depth. Females lay two to four eggs. The incubation and fledgling periods are not known, but both parents incubate and take care of young.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers and people: Ivory-billed woodpeckers have been important to the cultures of Native Americans (especially their head and bill), as good-luck charms, and in the trade of skins and eggs for early European settlers in North America. The birds have been captured for food. They helped to limit the number of pest insects on farmlands and in forests.

Conservation status: Ivory-billed woodpeckers are listed as Critically Endangered, and may already be extinct. Their rarity is due mostly to loss old-growth forests and the killing of the birds over many centuries. ∎



Alsop, Fred J. III. Birds of North America. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2001.

Baughman, Mel M., ed. Reference Atlas to the Birds of North America. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2003.

del Hoyo, Josep, et al., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1992.

Dickinson, Edward C., ed. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ and Oxford, U.K.: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 4th ed. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 2002.

Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopedia of Birds, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998.

Harrison, Colin James Oliver. Birds of the World. London and New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.

Kaufman, Kenn, with collaboration of Rick and Nora Bowers and Lynn Hassler Kaufman. Birds of North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Sibley, David. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Terres, John K. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York: Knopf, 1980.

Web sites:

About.com. "Endangered Red-cockeyed Woodpecker: Only 1 Percent of its Habitat Left." http://birding.about.com/library/weekly/aa012301a.htm (accessed on July 19, 2004).

Nutty Birdwatcher. "The Ivory-billed Woodpecker." http://www.birdnature.com/mar1898/ivorybilledwood.html (accessed on July 19, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsWrynecks Woodpeckers and Piculets: Picidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Northern Wryneck (jynx Torquilla): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, WRYNECKS WOODPECKERS AND PICULETS AND PEOPLE