The Ivory Billed Woodpecker

The ivory billed woodpecker, or Campephilus principalis, is considered to be critically endangered. In fact, no birds were found between 1944 and 2004 in the United States. The last sighting in Cuba was in 1987. The sightings in 2004 in eastern Arkansas spark hope that the ivory billed woodpecker might still exist in enough numbers that the United States can start a conservation program for the birds.

Ivory Billed Woodpecker Facts
Their natural habitat is old, hardwood forests located in swampy lands. These forests, which once ran throughout the southeastern United States and Cuba, are largely gone.

Ivory billed woodpeckers' food of choice is beetle larvae, although the birds have also been known to eat insects, nuts and fruits upon occasion. Beetle larvae, which look like little worms, are hatched from beetle eggs. These woodpeckers find beetle larvae in trees that are in the process of dying or have just died. One pair of ivory billed woodpeckers may need up to ten square miles of territory in order to eat and survive.

These woodpeckers also use mature trees for nesting. They build nests in trees' cavities by cleaning out dead or partially dead areas above the ground. Both parents, who may mate for life, incubate the three eggs that are usually laid for three to five weeks. After the eggs hatch, the females take care of the chicks during the day while the males take on the nighttime responsibilities.

Ivory billed woodpeckers rate third among the largest woodpeckers in the world, with a wingspan of 30 to 31 inches and a height of 18 to 20 inches. Their bills are not made of ivory, but of bone covered with keratin. Keratin it a tough protein that is also found in nails, hoofs and hair.

Ivory billed woodpeckers look similar to pileated woodpeckers. However, pileated woodpeckers are smaller than ivory beaked woodpeckers. While both male birds have a red crest on the tops of their heads, male ivory beaked woodpeckers have a black stripe on top of the crest, unlike the pileated woodpecker. In addition, male ivory beaked woodpeckers have more white feather patches and stripes on their bodies and wings than do pileated woodpeckers.

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