Search for the IvoryBill

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is one of the largest woodpeckers in the world, 20 inches long with a wingspan of 30 inches.

It is native to the forests of the southeastern United States but the bird has only been spotted sporadically since the 1940s. It is considered "definitely or probably extinct" by the American Birding Association.

In February 2004, an ivory-billed woodpecker was spotted by Gene Sparling while kayaking in the Cache River Natoinal Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. Tim Gallagher and Bobby Harrison of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology investigated the report and when they went to the same bayou, they also spotted a large, black and white bird that they described as a "closeup, unmistakable sighting" of the woodpecker, the first sighting by experienced observers in 60 years.

A team was quickly organized to begin an official search. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab; John Simpson, board member of The Nature Conservancy; David Luneau, professor at the University of Arkansas, and Scott Simon, director of the Arkansas Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, headed up the team. They put together over 50 employees, volunteers and contractors from Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, Louisiana State University, Arkansas National Heritage Commossion, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Birdman Productions, Civic Enterprises, Cornell Lab, University of Arkansas and The Nature Conservancy.

The search team spent up 14 hours a day in the swamps and bayous of eastern Arkansas searching for the woodpecker. In April, four different people spotted the bird on four different days. A video was made and when it was analyzed by the experts, John Fitzpatrick declared that "the bird captured in this video can be nothing other than an ivory-billed woodpecker."

Between June 2004 and February 2005, there were two more sightings of the bird. There were also reports of sounds of the double knocks associated with the ivory-billed woodpecker. One of these was recorded and during the February sighting, these distinct sounds were heard as well.

In September 2006, a report was published by ornithologists from Windsor University and Auburn University about their sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker along the Chotawhatchee River in northwest Florida. However, searches through 2009 have not yielded any other sightings.

A $10,000 reward was offered in 2006 for information that would lead to a nest, roost or feeding spot of an ivory-billed woodpecker and in 2008, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology offered a reward of $50,000 to anyone who could lead them to a living woodpecker. In all, more than $10 million has been raised for this project. Besides the reports listed, there has been no other evidence presented such as pictures, specimens, feathers, etc. Habitat restoration efforts have begun, however, in these locations to protect any possible surviving ivory-billed woodpeckers.

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