In February 2022, I published a column in the Muskogee Phoenix about whether or not the Ivory-billed Woodpecker exists. It included general information, as well as data on the bird itself and where it was last seen.
This bird, along with other animals and plants, was listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a proposed Endangered Species Act delisting on September 29, 2021, due to extinction. Even though the article stated that the ESA helped save 99% of species on the brink of extinction, it was a good case for far too little too late with living things that went extinct before the act.
The USFWS comment period has now been reopened and extended until August 8, as the latest attempt to protect the species’ ivory-billed habitat.
The agency cited “substantial disagreement among experts regarding the status of the species” as the reason for the extended comment period.
The Service is looking for new data during this reopening period, including clear video or photographs of the subject’s presence that can be interpreted beyond doubt that the ivory beak still exists. Comments and photos provided during the initial period and prior to reopening are not required for resubmission.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is one of the most controversial topics in the birding world about its existence, which is moot. The most important point is that it needs protected habitat to survive, and as we know it has become increasingly difficult to maintain marshy habitat for birds such as the Prothonotary Warbler, the only warbler which relies on cavities to nest in addition to Lucy’s Warbler. Warbler.
MissionIvorybill.org of Monroe, Louisiana is one of the main drivers of this change in the comment period, an environmental conservation organization.
The Romeo mistake is when bird extinctions sound like a Shakespearean tragedy. Those who continue to research the existence of the ivory beak advise that the greatest hope is that someone locates a nest cavity. Chances are an adult is in or near a nest.
“Extinct” bird is a misnomer in a number of cases. Some species of Lazarus have been known to be extinct for almost four centuries – samples of these species include the Bermuda petrel, New Zealand storm petrel, black-browed babbler, Banggai raven and several others.
Curiously, mankind seems to assume that just because a taxon or species is not seen, it is automatically extinct. However, a rare species is difficult to locate in small numbers, especially if it displays elusive behavior, such as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
We have been trying to put a tombstone on this taxon for a century. The last so-called sighting was during World War II, a mere sketch, which offers less than current sightings from this century alone. Between 2000 and 2010, 26 reports were filed in seven states, many of these people having previously observed the Lord God Bird. Reports are still coming in to this day.
Think about it.
Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and professional photographer living in Stillwater.