New Peer-Reviewed Paper from Project Principalis Published in Ecology and Evolution Suggests Ivory-billed Woodpeckers Survive in Louisiana
Findings include photographs, video, and drone footage collected by Project Principalis during multi-year
(Pittsburgh, PENN.) May 18, 2023 – Research supporting the persistence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis) has been published today in the peer-reviewed journal, Ecology and Evolution https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.10017.
Proposed to be delisted and declared extinct by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September 2021, the presence of the species in the Southeastern United States has been intensely debated. This publication coincides with Endangered Species Day, an appropriate coincidence for a bird that, for many, symbolizes fragility, conservation, and hope. The paper, “Multiple lines of evidence suggest the
persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in Louisiana,” presents personal accounts, audio recordings, trail camera images, and drone footage depicting multiple birds, building on evidence previously shared in a preprint in 2022 and supplemented with new videos. The images were gathered over an intensive, multi-year search effort in Louisiana led by Project Principalis, a partnership led by Dr. Steven Latta of the National Aviary located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Mark Michaels, Project Coyote co-founder, with participation from a dedicated team of research associates and
“Project Principalis has built a substantial body of evidence over the years, which, when viewed in aggregate, presents a compelling case for the survival of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers,” said lead author Dr. Steven Latta, Director of Conservation and Field Research at the National Aviary. “We are confident in our work and in our interpretation of the data. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is an iconic species for
conservation and a beacon of hope for many. In documenting the persistence of these birds despite the odds, we will also inspire others to care about the Ivory-bill and the many other species that also rely on the unique bottomland hardwood forests. Even more, the persistence of iconic species like the Ivorybill can inspire actions to protect other threatened and endangered species around the world.”
The publication in Ecology and Evolution builds on the project’s past work, accumulated over several years. It includes the initial findings shared in an April 2022 paper on the BioRxiv preprint server. It also
includes recently analyzed videos that show apparent Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in flight. In one clip, two large woodpeckers showing black bodies and extensive white on the dorsal surfaces of the wings,
interact in flight and on tree limbs, with both perched birds showing the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s distinctive white “saddle” pattern.
Mark Michaels, co-founder of Project Principalis, noted that this is the first time since the 1930s that multiple individuals of this iconic species have been documented with multiple methods over a number of years.
“After having devoted more than a decade to documenting the Ivory-bill at the study site, I am thrilled by this development,” Michaels said. “The evidence that this iconic species persists was gathered by a dedicated team of community and professional scientists, which makes the publication of our results even more significant and gratifying.”
Project Principalis is a collaboration between professional and community scientists, combining traditional fieldwork and new technologies to document Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker species in North America, with a historic range in mature bottomland hardwood forests and some pine forests of the southeastern United States. Habitat loss and the hunting of birds contributed to the rapid decline of the species, and by the early twentieth century, the birds were so scarce that many believed them to be gone entirely. The last formally accepted sighting of the bird occurred in 1944. Although occasionally reported in the last 80 years from a variety of sites, until now, the evidence has never met the high standards required to verify the persistence of the species.
About Project Principalis
Project Principalis is a search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker led by Dr. Steven Latta of the National Aviary [located in Pittsburgh, PA] and Mark Michaels, Project Coyote co-founder, with participation from
a dedicated team of research associates and community scientists.
About the National Aviary
Located on Pittsburgh’s historic Northside since its founding in 1952, the one and only National Aviary is home to 500 birds representing more than 150 diverse species from around the world, many of them
threatened or endangered in the wild. The National Aviary’s large walk-through habitats create an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and to meet many species rarely found in zoos. Hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily
(closed Tuesdays in January and February). For tickets and more information visit www.aviary.org.