A year or so ago there was a flurry of articles on this woodpecker as it had not been seen for years and some one saw one. Or did they?

When the federal government declared last year that the ivory billed woodpecker is likely extinct, apologists flocked to support the iconic bird, which has historical links to Louisiana. They submitted photos and testimony to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and organized searches for the bird, including in Louisiana. One group promised a $12,000 reward for proof that the bird, with the most recent agreed-upon sighting dating from 1944 in Madison Parish, still exists. Now the woodpecker’s fans have secured a reprieve. Last week, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it needs more time to make the final call on whether the bird is extinct, and that it will extend its review period by six months to consider more information. “Recognizing substantial disagreement among experts regarding the status of the species, the service is extending the deadline to allow for additional time to review information,” the agency said. The extinction ruling, which was supposed to be issued in September, is now set for release in March, said Ian Fischer, a spokesperson for the agency.
This undated still image taken from video shows an ivory-billed woodpecker, which the federal government is considering declaring extinct.

Last September the bird was one of many that were going to be moved from endangered to extinct.

Last September, the ivory billed woodpecker was among 23 endangered species that the Fish and Wildlife Service recommended be moved from the endangered list to extinct. After proposing the change, the agency had one year to finalize, withdraw or extend the proposal, Fischer said. In its original proposal, the agency said the bird’s population dwindled because of hunting and the loss of mature forest habitat. The announcement outraged some birders, who remained convinced the woodpecker lives on undetected in swamps and forests, and that previous search efforts were inadequate. Other enthusiasts, including the president of the Louisiana Ornithological Society, have downplayed more recently reported sightings and said they are likely the product of hopeful birders spotting the pileated woodpecker, a look-alike relative with a bountiful population.

This upset many as there were sightings of the bird.

But reported sightings of the ivory billed woodpecker have continued. In April, a group of ornithologists from Project Principalis and the National Aviary said it had been spotted in an undisclosed Louisiana location as recently as October. The scientists said that over a years-long search the elusive bird was spotted dozens of times and recorded by multiple trail and aerial drone cameras. Fischer said the agency is asking for new evidence, specifically clear video or photos that can be “repeatedly interpreted the same way by independent observers.” The public comment period remains open for 30 days, until Aug. 8. Matt Courtman, a former lawyer and founder of Mission Ivory Bill, a nonprofit dedicated to proving the bird’s existence, petitioned the federal agency for a public hearing, which took place virtually Jan. 29. At the hearing, renowned ornithologist John Fitzpatrick, former director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said the proposal for extinction was “premature” and a “casual dismissal of a number of pieces of evidence that this bird still exists.”

If, in fact, there were trail and drone pictures proving some still exist should not be hard.

Courtman, whose group hosts a regular video conference discussion of the bird to spread awareness, said the proposal “wasn’t supported by facts” and contradicted a 2016 Fish and Wildlife Service report that said a declaration of extinction would be premature. He said he is “encouraged” by the agency’s latest postponement, and hopes it will ultimately end with a withdrawal of the proposal. Under Courtman’s guidance, a team of birders have been searching for the bird in Louisiana, lately focusing on an area in the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Louisiana. He said they have heard kents, the distinctive noise of the ivory billed woodpecker, as well as double knocking, indicating there might be “at least one” ivory bill in the area. He said he isn’t discouraged by the lack of proof thus far.   “We’re encouraged, but it takes time and patience,” he said. “People don’t realize how difficult it is just to see a flying bird, let alone photograph it.”

It would be nice to find and prove they exist but if there are only one or two we are simply delaying reality.

Ivory Billed Woodpecker not extinct yet