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Ivory-billed Woodpecker


IUCN Conservation Status: Critically Endangered

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Photo

The largest of the woodpeckers north of Mexico and the third largest in the world, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was a bird of old-growth forests of the Southeast. Destruction of its forest habitat caused severe population declines in the 1800s, and only a handful of birds remained into the 20th century. It was thought to have gone extinct in the middle of the twentieth century. The bird was rediscovered in the "Big Woods" region of eastern Arkansas in 2005, but has proven difficult to relocate since then. For a full account of this story, including conservation efforts, go here.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
18.1–20.1 in
46–51 cm
29.9–31.5 in
76–80 cm
15.9–20.1 oz
450–570 g
Other Names
  • Le pic noir a bec blanc (French)
  • El carpintero real (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Cuban form of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was considered a separate species at one time. It closely resembled the bird from the United States, but it had a slightly smaller bill and the white neck stripes extended farther onto the face. It suffered the same fate as the mainland form, disappearing as the mature forests were destroyed. The last confirmed sighting was made in 1986. Some may still persist in southeastern Cuba, but it may be extinct.
  • The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is very similar to the larger and very closely related Imperial Woodpecker of Mexico. The Imperial Woodpecker, the largest woodpecker in the world, lacked the white neck stripes and had a longer, thinner crest. It was a bird of mature pine forests, and also is likely extinct.
  • Bills of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker were used as decorations by native Americans and a thriving trade in them existed across much of North America. The presence of Ivory-billed Woodpecker skulls in excavations of archaeological sites outside of the known range of the woodpecker show the extent of the trade and not an ancient range for the species.
  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology was involved in an attempt to relocate the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana in 2002. Go here for details of that search and more information on Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. No ivory-bills were found, and a potential double-knock was determined to be gunshots. Read a report of the expedition published in BirdScope The story of the successful hunt for the species in Arkansas in 2004 and 2005 can be found here.



Mature bottomland forest, cypress swamps with large hardwoods.



Insects, primarily beetle larvae, fruits, and nuts.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–5 eggs
Egg Description
Condition at Hatching
Naked and helpless.
Nest Description

Cavity in tree.

Nest Placement



Bark Forager

Stripped bark from recently dead trees to reach beetle larvae, excavated conical holes deep into wood.


status via IUCN

Critically Endangered

This species is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action.. Destruction of its forest habitat caused the Ivory-billed Woodpecker to decline, and by the 1880s the species was rare. Forest destruction accelerated for the war efforts of World Wars I and II probably caused the final loss of the species in the United States. Although the species was thought to be extinct, it was rediscovered in Arkansas in 2004, though there have been no confirmed sightings since 2005.


Range Map Help

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Range Map
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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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