Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Species Profile: Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis

Learn more about this species in the Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America.

Introduction to the species

“The king and queen were coming to their palace. I waited patiently, knowing that it was far beyond my power to hurry their movements. It was not long before one of the birds, with a rapid cackling that made the wood rattle, came over my head, and went straight to the stump … . It was a superb specimen, the female, and I had suspected that she had come to leave an egg. I could have killed her easily with the little sixteen-gauge breech-loader at my side, but I would not have done the act for all the stuffed birds in the country. I had come as a visitor to this palace, with the hope of making the acquaintance I had so long desired, and not as an assassin.”
-M. Thompson 1889

Nearly everything we know about the natural history of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker comes from the meticulous work of ornithologist James Tanner. In 1937–1939, Tanner was commissioned to search for and study the species throughout its range. He visited habitats across the Southeast, traveling over 45,000 miles (72,420 km) by car—and many more miles by horseback, canoe, and foot—documenting what was believed to be the “last stand” of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the United States. Recent reports of purported Ivory-billeds have rekindled hopes that the “Lord God Bird” may still persist in the southeastern swamps. Whether or not the Ivory-billed Woodpecker persists, it will always be a part of North America’s fascinating ecological history.


Gallery of photos of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker by Steve Shunk

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