Rediscovering the King of Woodpeckers: Exploring the Implications


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Resilience Alliance


The Ivory-billed Woodpecker has long held a special place in the psyche of North American conservation, eliciting unusually colorful prose, even from scientists, as an icon of the wild. The reverence in which it was held did little to slow the habitat loss that led to its apparent extinction 60 years ago. A consequence of the emotion and attention associated with the amazing rediscovery of this species is that conservation biologists will be under considerable pressure to make good on this "second chance." This poses a challenge to conservation paradigms that has important political consequences. First, the decline of the species is due to habitat loss, recovery from which has been much more seldom achieved than recovery from declines due to impacts on vital rates. This challenge is exacerbated by the enormous area requirements of the species. Second, the species at best exists as a critically small population. It will be difficult to make the case that a viable population can be established without undermining the small population paradigm that underlies conservation strategies for many other species. This has already resulted in some political backlash. Conservation of this species is best based on the one point of clear scientific consensus, that habitat is limiting, but this may result in additional political backlash because of conflicts with other land uses.



conservation paradigms, ivory-billed woodpecker, political backlash, population dynamics, ivory-billed woodpecker, philesturnus-carunculatus, management, populations, island, condor, biodiversity conservation, ecology, ornithology


Walters, J. R., and E. L. Crist. 2005. Rediscovering the king of woodpeckers: exploring the implications. Avian Conservation and Ecology - Écologie et conservation des oiseaux 1(1): 6. [online] URL: