Project Principalis Submits to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service New Evidence of Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s Survival during Extended Comment Period

Following the release earlier this year of cumulative evidence, the long-running search submitted additional video showing an apparent Ivory-billed Woodpecker

 

Links:

  • New video evidence
  • Comments from Mark Michaels to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including full presentation and attachments
  • Comments from Dr. Steven Latta to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including attachment
  • bioRiv pre-print: “Multiple lines of evidence indicate survival of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana”

(Pittsburgh, Penn.) August 11, 2022 – Encouraged by the recent announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of an extended comment period on the status of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), Project Principalis, a partnership of independent researchers and the National Aviary have submitted additional public comments. The comments, which suggest the continuing survival of the iconic birds in Louisiana, include a pre-print paper documenting multiple lines of evidence published earlier this year on the pre-print server bioRxiv, and new video evidence showing what appears to be an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The submissions were made available to the public today on the United States Fish and Wildlife Service website.

On July 22, Mark Michaels, the co-founder of Project Principalis (formerly Project Coyote), a long-running search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, presented previously unreleased video from 2021 taken with a drone camera. Two of five sequential flights were included in the presentation. In the first, a large bird takes off from a tree, flies just above the forest canopy, crosses an open area, and dramatically swoops upward to land on a limb. The footage shows a bird with a black body, extensive white plumage on the dorsal surface of its wings, and black wingtips, which, when drawn in towards the bird’s body, form a white “saddle” pattern, one of the distinguishing field marks of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. This pattern is visible on the trunk after landing and again several seconds later when the bird re-emerges from behind the limb. The second segment shows the same bird taking off from higher on that limb approximately 15 seconds later.

“This new video showing an Ivory-billed Woodpecker – in flight, landing, and taking off – is exciting and informative. It not only builds on our existing body of evidence gathered over many years of searching; it tells us more about behavior, and is among the clearest evidence to date of the survival of these elusive birds,” says Michaels. “Project Principalis is continuing to employ new technology in our search, and as a result we can see details like the extensive white and the saddle formation on the bird’s back. We are confident in our work and hopeful for the future of one of North America’s most iconic species.”

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker was included in September 2021 in a list of 23 species proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for “de-listing,” or removal from the Endangered Species List due to extinction. While the last generally accepted sighting of the bird was in the 1940s, dozens of accounts of the species have continued throughout the decades. On July 7, the Service announced a 6-month extension for further evaluation of submitted documentation of the species’ survival.

“The aim of Project Principalis has long been to document the survival of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers so that these magnificent birds, their critical bottomland habitat, and the many species relying on this ecosystem can be protected. We have worked over successive field seasons to build a substantial body of cumulative evidence,” says Dr. Steven Latta, Director of Conservation and Field Research for the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “We are encouraged that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is granting more time to making this momentous decision, and we know officials with the Service are carefully evaluating all information available to them.”

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