Study suggests ‘not all is lost’ for ivory-billed woodpecker

Researchers compiled a decade’s worth of reports, audio and images

The debate over the status of the ivory-billed woodpecker has taken another turn. In a study published in Ecology and Evolution, researchers have presented “multiple lines of evidence” they believe point to the continued existence of a bird long believed to be extinct. The last widely accepted sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) was in 1944. Since then, sporadic reports have raised hope that it may still remain, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend a deadline on declaring the species extinct.

The latest study presents various sighting reports, audio recordings, camera images and drone video collected over the last decade from a Louisiana forest. None of the data is conclusive, but the authors believe that, taken together, they suggest the species may remain.

“Our findings, and the inferences drawn from them, suggest that not all is lost for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and that it is clearly premature for the species to be declared extinct,” they wrote.

Skeptics remain doubtful. “I don’t think this changes very much, frankly,” University of Connecticut professor Chris Elphick told the New York Times. “I would love to be wrong.”

Read more from the New York Times.


Header Image: : A pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers, observed in Louisiana in 1935. Credit: Arthur A. Allen/public domain