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This rare woodpecker is back from the brink

Words by Smiley Team

A threatened woodpecker has been sighted for the first time in decades, causing conservationists to celebrate. Since 1944, a grainy black and white photo was thought to be all that remained of the ivory-billed woodpecker. This was till researchers spotted it in the forests of Louisiana earlier this month.

Director of conservation at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh Steve Latta was with the party who spotted the bird. 

“You realise you’ve seen something special that very few people had the opportunity to see,” he told The Guardian.

Before the sighting in Louisiana, the woodpecker was registered as extinct by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This was despite one report that it was seen in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas in 2004.

[Read more uplifting news about initiatives working to protect, restore and replenish wildlife and nature]

Once the species was relatively common. But their numbers started declining rapidly in the 19th century due to human activities their habitat and overhunting. 

To make things worse, hunters started targeting them because their rarity made them valuable collectors’ items. Poor communities also hunted the birds as a cheap source of food.

The species is distinguishable by the white edges of its wings, a call like a “tin trumpet” and the double tapping sound it makes when pecking trees. 

Understandably, the bird has become wary of humans, making it increasingly difficult to find.

“No one has held a camera and got a picture of one in years because it’s a scarce bird in tough swampy habitat and they don’t want people close to them because they’ve been shot at for 150 years,” a biologist at Auburn University, Geoffrey Hill, told The Guardian.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: Help conservationists do more to protect bird populations. Donate to the RSPB.

TAKE ACTION: Volunteer or support campaigns to support birdlife around the UK by getting involved with the RSPB.


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