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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Florida Panhandle

An international team of researchers from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada and Auburn University, Alabama, have announced they have sighted Ivory-billed Woodpeckers 14 times since May '05 in the Florida Panhandle along the Choctawhatchee River. There is a story on it today in the Toronto Star. The reasearchers have also just published a paper titled, Evidence Suggesting that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis) Exist in Florida, in the Avian Conservation and Ecology Journal.

Ivory-bills were first seen on May 21, 2005 by Dr. Geoff Hill, an ornithologist from Auburn and his research assistants, Tyler Hicks and Brian Rolek. They say they got a clear view of the bird and heard its characteristic double knock sounds. A winter search began and they were joined by Dr. Dan Mennill, a sound monitoring specialist and assistant professor at the University of Windsor and Kyle Swiston, his graduate student. They collected acoustic evidence and say they had visual encounters, but, unfortunately, got no definitive photos.

Much more information is available at:

Dan Mennill's website, The Search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker,

and Geoff Hill's website, Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Florida Panhandle which states:

"Although members of our search group are convinced that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers persist in the swamp forests along the Choctawhatchee River, we readily concede that the evidence we have amassed to date falls short of definitive. Definitive evidence will come in the form of a clear, indisputable film, digital image, or video image of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker or perhaps from a fresh feather or DNA sample."

The Choctawhatchee River Basin is in a rural area with few facilities, some inherent dangers (snakes, alligators, easy to get lost, etc.) and anyone searching would need topo maps and a GPS. Although the river basin is not closed to anyone, the researchers ask that birders not search in their area (which they are not disclosing, but will tell you to leave if you are in it) and not play any recordings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. They feel that Ivory-bills might be found widely along the Choctowhatchee River Basin and suggest searching in these other areas.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker can be confused with the Pileated Woodpecker. We have posted 24 photos of Pileateds on our website to aid folks in Pileated identification,
on these two pages:


and here.

Here are a few samples images of Pileated Woodpeckers from those pages:

Pileated Woodpecker 1

Pileated Woodpecker 2

Pileated Woodpecker 3

Pileated Woodpecker 4

All photos © Lillian Stokes, 2006


Anonymous said...

14 announced sightings, yet no photo?

Lovie said...

Sometime in 2002 my husband and I saw this very woodpecker outside our home, on a tall dead pine. It looked pre-historic. I am very familiar with other woodpeckers, I am an avid bird-lover. It feels like I saw bigfoot or something, no one believes me. By the time I thought of getting a camera, it was gone, but I know it was alive then.

Lovie said...

I saw this bird in Naples Florida, Vanderbilt Beach Area, on a tall dead pine. I know the difference of a pileated, this was much bigger, and looked pre-historic.