The Cryptid Zoo: Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

The ivory-billed woodpecker is a large member of the woodpecker family with a striking and beautiful head. It was often called the "Lord God bird" because of the exclamations people would make when they first saw it. It was native to the southeastern portion of North America, and was quite widespread when the South was full of virgin forests.
Ivory-billed woodpecker picture by John James Audubon, now in the public domain.
Unfortunately, its head was thought to have mystical qualities and, as soon as Europeans took control of the trade in this bird, it was soon hunted to extinction, complicated by clear-cutting logging operations on a scale unseen in America today. Except, the ivory-billed woodpecker wasn't really extinct, because it came back... but then it seemed to go extinct again, and ever since then, this cycle has repeated. Scientists keep declaring it is extinct, but it keeps seeming to come back.

This cryptid is of especial interest right now, because recent video evidence has convinced many scientists that a male ivory-billed woodpecker inhabited the Big Woods region of eastern Arkansas in 2004. All of the sightings happened within a two-mile radius, but ivory-billed woodpeckers are known to have a low population density. This suggests that all of these sightings are likely to be of the same bird.

It looks like the ivory-billed woodpecker has returned from extinction again. Is there a breeding population in Arkansas, or is there only the one bird? Hopefully, there are enough birds left to keep ivory-billed woodpeckers around for a long time.

There is also a possible, unconfirmed, population of ivory-billed woodpeckers living in Cuba. These would almost certainly be a different subspecies than the mainland birds. The Cuban ivory-billed woodpecker is still a cryptid in every sense of the word.

You can find out more about the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker from the following sources:

BBC News. "Extinct" Woodpecker Found Alive

Cokinos, Christopher. Hope is the Thing with Feathers: A Personal Chronicle of Vanished Birds. New York: Putnam, 2000.
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Gallagher, Tim. The Grail Bird : The Search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Hoose, Phillip. The Race to Save the Lord God Bird

Jackson, Jerome A. In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Smithsonian Institution Press, 2004.

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 199, 212-213, 221

Owen, James. "Extinct" Woodpecker Found in Arkansas, Experts Say

Tompkins, Burney. Ivory Rediscovered in America

Weidensaul, Scott. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species. New York: North Point Press, 2002. Pages 12, 21, 39, 45-65, 101, 174, 243

Wikipedia, The. Ivory-billed Woodpecker

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