The ivory billed woodpecker and the unexpected value of protected areas
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The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and the Unexpected Value of Protected Areas By Dana Considine The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker A very large woodpecker (wingspan of about 30 inches), with black and white feathers, a “conspicuous” red crest, and a large white bill.

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The ivory billed woodpecker l.jpg
The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Protected Areas

  • A very large woodpecker (wingspan of about 30 inches), with black and white feathers, a “conspicuous” red crest, and a large white bill.

  • The second largest woodpecker in the world.

  • Until 2004, it was believed to have been extinct.


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The Decline Protected Areas

  • During the 1870’s, extensive logging in the southern United States and the clearing of forests in Cuba for sugar cane fields destroyed most of their habitat.

  • Each pair of birds needs more than 14,000 acres of territory, so huge areas of forests are required to support a population.

  • During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the birds were stuffed and became trophies for collectors and naturalists.

  • There were as few as 22 birds left by 1939, and the last reported sighting was in 1944.


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The Rediscovery Protected Areas

  • The Cache River National Wildlife Refuge is a 380-acre tract of wetlands purchased in 1982 by The Nature Conservancy, which safeguarded more than 120,000 acres of land to create a wildlife refuge.

  • In 2004, amateur naturalist Gene Sparling spotted an ivory-billed woodpecker while kayaking in the Cache River Refuge.

  • Ornithologists confirmed his identification of the bird, which hadn’t been seen in 60 years.

  • The Cache River Refuge just happened to contain the world’s last remaining population of the species.


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Conservation Efforts Protected Areas

  • Since it’s rediscovery, a recovery team has been working to conserve this species.

  • The biology group analyzes population viability and assesses monitoring techniques. One of their main tasks is determining the current population.

  • The habitat and conservation group identifies current and potential woodpecker habitats and recommends possible management options.

  • The “corridor of hope” group is a partenership of public and private groups who support the recovery of the woodpeckers. Their contribution includes $30 million in “conservation initiatives.”


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The Importance of Protected Areas Protected Areas

  • It is vital to protect forests so that they can mature into old-growth forests and be able to support larger populations and a greater variety of species.

  • The rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker validates decades of conservation work and shows the benefits of establishing protected areas.


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