Ivory-billed woodpecker will not be listed as extinct — for now

Oct 16, 2023, 7:05 PM | Updated: 7:09 pm


(CNN) Federal wildlife officials said Monday they are delaying a long-awaited decision to declare the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct, months after grainy photos and videos emerged that purported to show the bird flying through a Louisiana forest.

In 2021, the agency seemed ready to declare the so-called Lord God Bird extinct: The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to remove 23 species, including the ivory-billed woodpecker, from the endangered species list due to extinction. Thorough scrutiny of “the best scientific and commercial data available” had led to the conclusion the bird no longer exists, the agency told CNN.

On Monday, Fish and Wildlife declared 21 of those species extinct — and the ivory-billed woodpecker is not among them.

“Although the delisting proposal included the ivory-billed woodpecker, the Service will continue to analyze and review the information before deciding whether to delist the ivory-billed woodpecker,” the agency wrote in a news release.

The government’s last accepted sighting of the red-crowned bird species was in April 1944 by artist and birder Don Eckelberry.

Read more: Is the ivory-billed woodpecker extinct?

But expert biologists and birdwatchers have been adamant the nation’s largest woodpecker is still out there. Just after the feds announced the proposal to remove the bird, public comments poured in from ornithologists, amateur birders and even communities like the Cherokee Nation, whose leaders asserted the creature is a symbol whose “influence on our cultural activities remains to this day.”

Amid the wave of testimony, the wildlife service invited more public comment and announced extensions to its decision that effectively postponed its ivory bill verdict into 2023. Now, that critical decision to delist the bird is once again delayed.

“I applaud the Service’s decision to postpone a declaration of extinction, as the scientific community is by no means certain about the status of this iconic woodpecker,” John Fitzpatrick, a renowned ornithologist and retired director emeritus of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, told CNN. “Evidence of its persistence continues to emerge, albeit none of it 100% convincing to everyone.”

Since the 1944 sighting, the only other “compelling evidence,” according to the federal wildlife service, was 2005 research from Fitzpatrick and his associates that claimed ivory bill sightings in eastern Arkansas’ Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

“Active searches continue in several regions from Arkansas to Louisiana, and a few images recently released are indeed suggestive,” Fitzpatrick said.

The government removes a species from the endangered and threatened species list for just three reasons: it’s recovered so well it no longer needs the law’s protection; new information suggests it isn’t threatened; or it’s gone extinct. Removal helps the agency “to be good stewards of conservation resources,” it has said.

In 2022, CNN joined avid birdwatchers to search the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, where the ivory-billed woodpecker was last officially seen. Around the same time, a group known as Project Principalis — a nod to the ivory bill’s scientific name, Campephilus principalis — was gathering evidence observed over the prior decade by Steve Latta of the National Aviary and other colleagues.

Using unmanned trail cameras and drones, they’d captured grainy pictures of what they claimed was the ivory bill.

“We have some of the best images, if not the best images, that have been produced in 80 years,” Latta, who claimed he has seen the bird in 2019, told CNN at the time.

This May, Project Principalis published peer-reviewed research that unveiled such recordings, which they submitted to the feds, including a drone video from October 2022 of two ivory bills quickly flying onto a tree branch.

“Our ultimate goal is the conservation of the species, its habitat, and the many other species relying on that habitat,” Latta told CNN Monday. “Keeping the Ivory-billed Woodpecker on the Endangered Species list brings us one step closer to that goal.”

he-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Over 600 works of art were put on display in the Central Institute for Restoration’s offices, fro...

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN

US returns $80 million-worth of stolen artifacts to Italy

Over 600 stolen artifacts were put on display in Italy, from life-size bronze statues to tiny Roman coins.

46 minutes ago

Chad Daybell leaning over and whispering to his lawyer, John Prior during his murder trial...

Mary Culbertson

What’s next in the triple murder trial of Chad Daybell as it nears end

As the trial for Chad Daybell nears its end, many questions will be answered soon. The timeline of events to expect will include possibility of the death penalty, jury deliberation, and another trial phase.

3 hours ago

A painting by Italian master Caravaggio entitled 'Ecce Homo' is pictured at the Prado museum in Mad...

Jack Guy, CNN

Lost Caravaggio goes on display after almost being sold at auction for just $1,600

A lost Caravaggio painting that was almost mistakenly sold at auction for a bargain price has gone on display in Madrid, Spain.

3 hours ago

A Spirit Airlines flight returned to Montego Bay, Jamaica after a suspected mechanical issue on its...

Amanda Jackson, Dave Alsup and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Spirit Airlines passengers told to prepare for possible water landing after mechanical issue

The cabin of a Spirit Airlines flight from Jamaica to Florida became a scene of panic and confusion Sunday when passengers were told to prepare for a possible water landing after the aircraft was turned around due to an apparent mechanical problem, a passenger told CNN.

4 hours ago

TEMPLE, TEXAS - MAY 23: Debris is strewn on the side of a road following a tornado on May 23, 2024 ...

John Seewer

23 are dead across the US after weekend tornadoes. Texas is getting battered again

Damaging winds and hail have pelted north Texas as much of the U.S. recovers from severe weather that killed at least 23 people during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

4 hours ago

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 21: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the end of the day during...

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price

In Trump’s hush money trial, prosecutors and defense lawyers are poised to make final pitch to jury

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial are set to deliver closing arguments.

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Ivory-billed woodpecker will not be listed as extinct — for now