OCT 04, 2021 10:00 AM PDT

U.S. Declares Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Several Other Species Extinct

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

According to a recent announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, also called the “Lord God bird,” has been declared extinct.

The world’s third-largest woodpecker, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was among 23 species announced by the U.S. to have gone extinct; other species included a range of other birds, mussels, and fish, as well as one plant. 

Despite being one of several species declared extinct, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was the most notable, having drawn significant attention over the years due to its controversial history. There has not been much by way of confirmed sightings of the woodpecker since 1944. Many people claim to have seen them, but there was never any verifiable proof. However, after several “sightings” at a national refuge in Arkansas in 2004 and 2005, it was officially acknowledged by the U.S. and other organizations that the bird had been “resurrected,” so to speak, offering some hope to biologists and environmentalists.

Despite the 2005 announcement, there were skeptics who questioned the scant evidence and lack of confirmed sightings, suggesting that it was wrong to consider the bird not being extinct. It was proposed that people had spotted a Pileated Woodpecker instead, which looks very similar to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (despite a few minor differences in beak size and plumage color). 

But now, given the announcement by the U.S. government, the door appears to have been closed on the subject, despite efforts to keep hope alive for these birds.   

This announcement comes amid disturbing trends for plants and animals--for example, the United Nations notes that as many as a million species are at risk of becoming extinct, noting a 20% reduction in species in most land-based habitats since 1900. That makes it all the more unsettling that human activity--such as pollution and overdeveloping important habitats--was noted as the primary cause of each extinction on the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services list. 

Sources: National Geographic; United Nations, Forest Wildlife

About the Author
  • Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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