Six-month extension declared to determine if ivory-billed woodpecker is extinct

ivory-billed woodpecker
Posted at 6:45 PM, Jul 07, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A bird species once seen in the trees of the southeast was about to be declared extinct. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is giving some time to see if photographic evidence can be found.

"Trying to get these dragonflies," said photographer Graham Gerdeman, pointing his lens. "They're dropping eggs on the water there."

Something about photographers, they love a challenge.

"Yes, actually, I very much do," he smiled.

These aren't the usual subjects for Gerdeman, a conservation photographer and birding expert.

"I've recently become a regional editor for North American Birds," Gerdeman said.

That love of a challenge means Gerdeman understands the fascination with the ivory-billed woodpecker.

"Ivory-billed woodpecker has mystique because it disappeared," he said.

The last universally accepted sighting of the bird in the US was in Louisiana in 1944.

Some experts have claimed to have spotted the ivory-billed woodpecker around the southeast since then. The species was going to be declared extinct, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service now says they're taking a six-month extension to see if anyone can provide pictures or video to prove it still exists.

"A lot of people refer to the old X Files theme of, 'I Want To Believe,'" said Gerdeman. "There's a natural human fascination with finding treasure, and this is a biological treasure. Obviously, if it could be rediscovered, it would be magical."

"It has this white saddle on the back," said US Fish and Wildlife Biologist Amy Trahan.

Trahan said birds could be sighted that look similar to the ivory-billed woodpecker. She said there's huge interest out there to spot the actual bird.

"People really love it," said Trahan. "There's a lot of people searching for it, and no matter what our decision is in the end, I'm sure people are going to continue to search for it. People aren't going to stop searching for what they love."

Though Gerdeman loves a challenge, he's not among those who believe the ivory-billed woodpecker will be found.

"I just feel like a little more of this attention could be devoted to saving these species that are on the brink, instead of trying to find this missing one," he said. "That's how I see the hunt for the ivory-billed woodpecker. I would love for it to be there, but I don't think it is."