Is the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct or hiding?


Is an animal or a bird off if no one has seen it for almost 80 years? Or is it just good for hiding from those looking for it?

That’s a question the US Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to answer about a large bird called the ivory-billed woodpecker.

No one has seen him since 1944.

The peak was on the critical endangered list for several years. Currently, however, the Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to decide if he is no longer alive. If deemed extinct, it would no longer be protected by the US government.

The bird is one of the largest woodpeckers. It once lived in the old growth forests of the southern United States. However, the logging industry has destroyed the habitat or where the bird lives.

FILE – The ivory-billed woodpecker, feared extinct for 60 years, was seen in a remote part of Arkansas on April 28, 2005. (REUTERS/File Photo)

Some birdwatchers believe the birds still live deep in the remaining forests and swamps in the American South. These places are difficult to access. And no one has seen the ivory-billed woodpecker for almost 80 years.

Christian Cooper is an experienced ornithologist. He called the peak “something of a Holy Grail of bird watching in North America.

“Even though it is almost 95% certain that he is gone, there is only thin fortunate that there is still a population, a small population, clinging to being in certain remote swamp forest to the south.

The bird was placed on a list of 23 species who may have disappeared last September. But after many birdwatchers complained, the agency decided to postpone its decision on the September peak until March 2023.

But birders only have until August 7 to provide photographic evidence that the woodpeckers are still alive.

In this May 28, 2008 file photo, a sign asking Dagmar Wildlife Management Area patrons to watch for ivory-billed woodpeckers is displayed near Brinkley, Ark.  (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

In this May 28, 2008 file photo, a sign asking Dagmar Wildlife Management Area patrons to watch for ivory-billed woodpeckers is displayed near Brinkley, Ark. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

Cooper noted that a research group led by the National Aviary in Pittsburgh recently said they found evidence of the bird in Louisiana, using unmanned cameras and listening to its special call. The group would not say the study area as they hope to keep the birds safe. The study has not been fully reviewed by other bird experts.

Ian Fischer is a spokesperson for US Fish and Wildlife. He said there are a lot ofpassion…for this bird…but there is no clear evidence that it lives, unfortunately.

Species on the proposed extinction list include: one fruit bat, 11 birds including woodpecker, eight freshwater mussels and two species of fish.

Cooper expressed some hope that the mysterious bird is not extinct.

“So the bird is gone?” Is the bird still there? No one can say for sure, but there is always hope.

I am Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learn English based on a Reuters report and his own reporting.


words in this story

off– adj. no longer existing

critical –adj. Extremely important

swamp -not. earth always wet and sometimes covered with water

Holy Grail – nm something you want very much but is very hard to get

thin –adj. small or limited

remote –adj. far or far

species -not. a group of animals or plants that are similar

passion -not. a strong sense of enthusiasm


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