National Park Service


Date of this Version



Published in Weber, Samantha, and David Harmon, eds. 2008. Rethinking Protected Areas in a Changing World: Proceedings of the 2007 GWS Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society.


The ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) is the largest woodpecker in North America, and, according to Tanner (1942), the second largest in the world. The ivorybill originally lived in the extensive bottomland forests of the coastal plain within the southeastern United States and in Cuba. As early as 1891, naturalists noticed population declines and range restrictions (Hasbrouck 1891; Tanner 1942). The ivory-bill was thought to be extinct, with the last confirmed sighting in the United States in 1944. However, in April 2005 it was announced that the woodpecker had been rediscovered in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas (USFWS 2005). As a result, reassessments of the historic range of the ivory-bill have begun throughout the Southeast. Historic records prior to 1940, coupled with potential sighting reports from recent years have brought resources and expertise together in an effort to evaluate the possible presence of ivory-billed woodpeckers in South Carolina. Congaree National Park became a focal point for these search activities, supported through a multi-agency working group.