Project Principalis

Project Principalis: A Search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

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Aside from the Passenger Pigeon, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is perhaps the most legendary North American bird. An impressive, large bird with striking features, the elusive Ivory-billed Woodpecker has been the subject of fascination and debate for over a century.

Project Principalis is a search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, one of North America’s most storied and iconic birds. The project is a collaboration between the National Aviary and the researchers, community scientists, and nature enthusiasts who made up the long-running Ivorybill search known as Project Coyote.

Frank Wiley and Mark Michaels wearing camo in the woods
Founders of the original Project Coyote search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Frank Wiley and Mark Michaels.

Project Coyote was founded by Mark A. Michaels and the late Frank Wiley, a Louisiana native, to search for evidence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the state, and to follow up on local reports of sightings. Mark first began blogging about the effort 2014, but the search for information and evidence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in East-Central Louisiana began in August 2009.

During the 2018-2019 field season, Project Principalis embarked on a collaborative effort with the National Aviary and the University of Pittsburgh, focused on gathering acoustic data, collecting environmental DNA samples, and locating roost and nest sites. Researchers are aiming to document Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, document concrete evidence that establishes the species’ persistence, and start gathering behavioral data about what they believe is at least one group of surviving birds.

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