With wood ducks and barred owls sized for ivory-billed woodpeckers
, for instance, and screech owls fitting neatly into red-cockaded holes across the longleaf ecosystem, we quickly realize the significant role these birds play as ecosystem engineers, and, dare I say, the architects of evolution in some cases.
THE IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER
has fascinated the public since Native Americans used the bird's skins to carry medicine bundles and traded its remains as far north as Canada.
One consequence of the supposed sighting in 2004 was a wide-spread rhapsody about the "Lord God bird." It was reported over and over that the "Lord God bird" was a kind of unofficial nickname for the ivory-billed woodpecker
. The only reference I had remembered to the bird was in William Faulkner's The Bear, when Ike McCaslin is in training for the pursuit of Old Ben near the end of Part I:
Since then, numerous search parties have been launched to comb that patch of forest for more evidence of the bird's existence, and scientists have been examining the video frame by frame and debating whether it really depicts an ivory-billed woodpecker
or just a more common, similar-looking pileated woodpecker.
In his book The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
(Houghton Mifflin, $25) this lifetime birder and magazine editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology writes about fulfilling a long-held dream: "And then it happened.
The ivory-billed woodpecker
. Rediscovered in America in April having not been seen since 1944.
Thankfully, we can now say the same about the largest woodpecker in the United States, the magnificent ivory-billed woodpecker
So take a listen to an ivory-billed woodpecker
, common loon, marbled wood quail, satin bowerbird, red-ruffed fruitcrow, superb lyrebird, Australian magpie, common nighthawk, common raven, or canyon wren.
Such is the case of the splendid ivory-billed woodpecker
(Campephilus [=Picus] principalis), also a dweller of eastern North American forests, which is near to extinction at the close of the twentieth century.
My tears were for the dusky seaside sparrow, the Xerces blue butterfly, the ivory-billed woodpecker
and many other extinct species.
Would we still have the ivory-billed woodpecker
, the great auk, and the heath hen if the principal populations of those now extinct species had lived in one of the U.S.
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture states unequivocally that the ivory-billed woodpecker
, long listed as extinct, "was rediscovered in the Big Woods of east Arkansas in 2004." But the question really isn't settled.