Ivory-billed Woodpeckers

A story by Doug Hitchcox, Staff Naturalist at Maine Audubon from 2023

Doug Hitchcox, Staff Naturalist at Maine Audubon

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) was the largest Woodpecker in North America with a total length of 19 to 21 inches and a typical wingspan of 30 inches. It got the nickname the Lord God Bird because people would exclaim “Lord God” when they saw it because it was such a stunning bird, visually. The bird only lives in cypress swamps and needs very large tracts of this habitat. As we have changed the landscape through logging and development so that there aren’t massive tracts of swamps in the southern US, the species has (likely) gone extinct.

Pileated Woodpeckers can thrive in smaller areas and can still be found; they are often misidentified as Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.

The US Fish and Wildlife reports the last confirmed sighting as being in 1944 but is reviewing its 2021 decision to declare the bird officially extinct.

Ivory billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), circa 1920 formerly in Portland Society of Natural History collections, currently in the collections of Maine Audubon. Displayed with a fantasy bird diorama from the Massachusetts Audubon.

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