History of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker

Ivory Billed Woodpeckers, once a prominent species within Louisiana were last sited in the 1940’s and are believed to be extinct. This extinction was entirely a human phenomenon.

Heavy logging activity exacerbated by hunting by collectors devastated the population of ivory-billed woodpeckers in the late 19th century. It was generally considered extinct in the 1920s when a pair turned up in Florida, only to be shot for specimens.

In 1932, a Louisiana state representative, Mason Spencer of Tallulah, disproved premature reports of the demise of the species when, armed with a gun and a hunting permit, he killed an ivory-billed woodpecker along the Tensas River and took the specimen to his state wildlife office in Baton Rouge.

By 1938, an estimated 20 woodpeckers remained in the wild, some six to eight of which were in the old-growth forest called the Singer Tract, owned by the Singer Sewing Company in Madison Parish in northeastern Louisiana, where logging rights were held by the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company. The company brushed aside pleas from four Southern governors and the National Audubon Society that the tract be publicly purchased and set aside as a reserve. The forest was logged with the last known Ivory Billed Woodpecker nest. She continued to fly over the cut-over tract for the next six years until 1944.

While there have been other reports of Ivory Billed Woodpeckers, since the 1940’s none have been confirmed.