Rare woodpecker discovered in Arkansas

File:Ivory Billed Woodpecker.jpg

Last confirmed sighting was 60 years ago
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Wildlife scientists confirmed on Thursday that a bird long thought extinct, the Ivory-billed woodpecker, has been found in Arkansas. The remarkable birds have a 30-inch wingspan and stand nearly 20 inches high.

The birds inhabited a wide swath of American bottomlands and mountain pine forests until the latter part of the 1800s. They require a large feeding ground, and it is thought the expansion of towns and cities closed off their domain. They went extinct in Cuba during the same period. Ornithologists say each mating pair of Ivory-billed woodpeckers needs three square miles of forest to survive. There were thought to be only 22 of them left in 1938.

There have been several independent sightings of the bird in Arkansas over the last year, and even a videotape. In an effort to support the birds, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy, and other groups have joined to form the Big Woods Conservation Partnership to conserve 200,000 acres of forest habitat and rivers in the area during the next 10 years.

John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology told the Associated Press, "the bird captured on video is clearly an ivory-billed woodpecker. Amazingly, America may have another chance to protect the future of this spectacular bird and the awesome forests in which it lives."

The story premiered Thursday in the online version of Science magazine.