The Glory Years

Prior to the European discovery of North America, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker thrived throughout the Southeastern region of the continent, which was then covered by forests that created the perfect woodpecker habitat. Ah, yes, it was a good time to be an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.

  • Pre-1900: Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers proliferated throughout the region. Unfortunately for the birds, their bills were viewed as a totem of successful warfare by various Indian tribes, and there was a thriving trade for the beaks.
  • 1712: Englishman Mark Catesby (1679-1749) comes to North America to catalog plants and animals in the colonies. He was the first Westerner to describe the species, calling it the "largest White-bill Wood-pecker." View Catesby's 1712 painting of the bird.
  • Circa 1825: Naturalist John Audubon (1785-1851) encounters many Ivory-billed woodpeckers on his trip through the Southeast. He paints the most well-known painting of the species.
  • 1837:Audubon visits Texas, and writes "I found [ivory-bills] very abundant along the finely wooded margins of that singular stream called 'Buffalo Bayou' in Texas, where we procured several specimens."
Photo by Ted Geltner
These two Ivory-Billed Woodpecker specimens are on display in the central gallery at The Florida Museum of Natural History on the University of Florida campus. The specimens will remain on display through Jan. 14, 2007.