Nearly two feet long with striking black, white, and red plumage, the Ivory-billed and Imperial Woodpeckers were two of the most impressive woodpeckers in the world. Both species were known to be in serious decline by the end of the nineteenth century and are likely extinct today, though occasional reports of sightings persist. While the Ivory-billed was one of the first endangered birds to receive intensive conservation attention, the efforts were too often misdirected, and too little, too late.
Concern for the fate of the Imperial Woodpecker came even later and resulted in a similar fate. The probable extinction of two of North America's largest and most charismatic birds has much to teach us regarding conservation efforts, especially as many other species face similar problems. In closely examining the history of the decline and causes of extinction of the Ivory-billed and Imperial Woodpeckers, the authors offer explanations for the birds' demise and strategies for future conservation and research efforts that focus mainly on the deadly, though largely understated, role of human depredations.
Noel F. R. Snyder is a retired field biologist formerly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and with Wildlife Preservation Trust International. He is an author of many books, including The Carolina Parakeet: Glimpses of a Vanished Bird, The California Condor: A Saga of Natural History and Conservation, Raptors of North America: Natural History and Conservation, The Parrots of Luquillo: Natural History and Conservation of the Puerto Rican Parrot, and Parrots: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan 2000-2004. David E. Brown is a research scientist affiliated with Arizona State University. His publications include The Grizzly in the Southwest, The Wolf in the Southwest, Arizona Game Birds, Arizona Wetlands and Waterfowl, Borderland Jaguars, as well as numerous edited works, such as Aldo Leopold's Southwest. Kevin B. Clark is a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who worked on the recovery of endangered species such as the California Gnatcatcher and California Least Tern and was regional recovery coordinator for the threatened Western Snowy Plover. He now works as a freelance biologist who conducts endangered species surveys and monitoring for government agencies and private companies.