Nature & Environment
Ivory-billed woodpecker joins extinction list
By T.K. Randall
October 1, 2021 · 4 comments
The ivory-billed woodpecker appears to be gone for good. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 James St. John
The distinctive bird is among 23 species in the US that are about to be declared officially extinct by authorities.
Sporting a distinctive red crest, white stripe and black feathers, the ivory-billed woodpecker was once a common sight in the old-growth forests of the Southern United States.
With the last confirmed sighting of a live specimen dating back to 1987, however, the outlook for the species has seemed increasingly grim over the last few decades, and while there have been sporadic reported sightings, the likelihood of it still surviving in the wild is now close to none.
Now in a rare move, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce on Wednesday that 23 critically endangered species, including the ivory-billed woodpecker, have officially gone extinct.
Most of the other animals on the list, such as the flat pigtoe (a freshwater muscle), were only ever reported once or twice and then never seen again.
The reasons for these extinctions range from deforestation and over-hunting to pollution and the impact of invasive species - but in all cases it is humans that were ultimately responsible.
Cornell University bird biologist John Fitzpatrick however has warned that declaring a species extinct prematurely can itself bring about its extinction if it is otherwise hanging on by a thread.
"Little is gained and much is lost [by declaring the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct]," he said.
"A bird this iconic, and this representative of the major old-growth forests of the southeast, keeping it on the list of endangered species keeps attention on it, keeps states thinking about managing habitat on the off chance it still exists."
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