By Mitchell Marks, Freedom Hills WMA (Retired)
The largest woodpecker to call
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker was believed to be extinct. Until recently that is. An ornithologist, who was bird watching in eastern
The Ivory-billed woodpecker is a large, black & white woodpecker, 19 to 21 inches in length, showing large amounts of white on the wings and back during flight. The male sports a red crest while the female’s crest is black. Also known as the “Lord God Bird”, the Pileated Woodpecker is very similar in appearance to the Ivory-billed but slightly shorter in length, with both sexes having a red crest. Ivory-bill’s have a white stripe that extends from either side of the face, below and behind the eye, down the neck, over the shoulders, running behind the wings and down the back. The Pileated has a black stripe that passes through the eye between two white stripes. The white stripes then extend down the neck and in front of the wings. The Ivory-bill’s legs, feet and claws are a grayish color and the Pileated has black legs, feet and claws. A very important difference is the color of bill. The ivory-billed has a light pale white or “ivory” color. The pileated had a dark color bill.
Ivory-billed Woodpeckers nest in dead or dying trees, most often associated with bottomland maple, pine, white elm and sweetgum. It typically excavates a nest cavity in the dead or dying portion of the tree, usually below a limb or limb knot to protect the cavity from rain. Cavities are typically used for only one nesting season, with a new cavity usually constructed close-by the following season. There are some recorded instances where a nest cavity was used two consecutive years.
Ivory-billed Woodpeckers feed on beetle larvae found in dead and dying trees, mostly in old growth forests. They have also been known to move into areas damaged by natural disasters, feeding on beetle larvae in damaged trees. It peels off the dead bark with its strong beak exposing the beetle larvae growing underneath.
By far, the number one reason for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s disappearance from