Ivory-billed Woodpecker

understanding complex and beautiful animals

Its habitat is thick hardwood swamps, pine forest with large amount of dead and decaying trees in Southern United States. They feed mainly on larvae of wood boring beetles.

‘The ivorybill’s power is legendary. In 1794, Alexander Wilson shot an ivorybill in North Carolina. The bird was only slightly injured and Wilson decided to keep it. He checked into a hotel and left the bird in his room to take care of his horse. When he returned less than an hour later, he found the bed covered large pieces of plaster, the lath was exposed for at least fifteen inches square, and a hole, large enough to admit a fist, opened to the weather boards.

Wilson caught the bird and tied a string around his leg and fastening to the table, again left him, this time to search for something it might eat. As he reascended the stairs, he heard him again hard at work, and on entering had the mortification to perceive that he had almost entirely ruined the mahogany table to which he was fastened, and on which he wreaked his whole vengeance. The bird refused all sustenance and, to Wilson’s regret, died three days later.’

Ivorybills are now critically endangered, possibly extinct due to habitat loss caused mainly by timber industry.

Bird Sense Tim Birkhead, Bloomsbury

June 2013, London