The Ivory-billed Woodpecker in North Carolina

“The first place I observed this bird [the ivory-billed woodpecker] at, when on my way to the south, was about twelve miles north of Wilmington in North Carolina. There I found the bird from which the drawing of the figure in the plate was taken. This bird was only wounded slightly in the wing, and, on being caught, uttered a loudly reiterated, and most piteous note, exactly resembling the violent crying of a young child; which terrified my horse so, as nearly to have cost me my life. It was distressing to hear it. I carried it with me in the chair, under cover, to Wilmington. In passing through the streets, its affecting cries surprised every one within hearing, particularly the females, who hurried to the doors and windows with looks of alarm and anxiety. I drove on, and on arriving at the piazza of the hotel, where I intended to put up, the landlord came forward, and a number of other person who happened to be there, all equally alarmed at what they heard; this was greatly increased by my asking, whether he could furnish me with accommodations for myself and my baby. The man looked blank and foolish, while the others stared with still greater astonishment. After diverting myself for a minute or two at their expense, I drew my woodpecker from under the cover, and a general laugh took place.”

–Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), author of American Ornithology; or, The Natural History of the Birds of the United States (1808-1829), as quoted in Reading the Roots: American Nature Writing before Walden, edited by Michael P. Branch.

7 thoughts on “The Ivory-billed Woodpecker in North Carolina”

  1. Mr. Tomberlin,

    My husband and I moved to Clay County NC in October of 2014. We have seen what we believe is the Ivory-Billed woodpecker on our land. We have not seen this bird in the past 2 years, but in 2018 and 2019 we saw a HUGE single woodpecker with bright red crest on the back of its head and white markings on its body. We’re quite sure it was this bird. It was unmistakably large and pecking at several Black Walnut tree stumps about 50 ft from our home’s windows. It was extremely loud in its pecking. Are there other birds of this size and coloring in western NC? If we see it again we will be sure to photograph it.

  2. This species is extremely nomadic. If you did see it and not a pileated woodpecker, it would be work a rare occurrence. Many think it is extinct, but people see (or think they see) them every few years. Please contact me and let me know where it was.

  3. Experienced outdoorsman pileated well known to me have been in close contact with them deer hunting my brother and I saw what appeared to be female ivory billed flying over pasture what caught our eye was large amount of white on trailing edges of wings we just looked at each other we knew we were blessed with a rare sight in Rutherford Co. Western nc. foothills

  4. I can’t help but wonder if there could be some in the green swamp it is large very and few humans go deep into it. It would be a perfect place to go unnoticed.

  5. I am from Raleigh, and growing up interacted with Pileated woodpeckers in the woods around central North Carolina. I relocated to Charlotte after graduating college. I was recently walking on a greenway in south Charlotte and I saw a large woodpecker that reminded me of a pileated, but slightly larger with a white beak and white marking on the wings. I am very hesitant to sound the alarm that Ivory billed woodpeckers are in Ballantine since their habitat is cypress swamps and mature forests, but I’ve never seen a pileated this big or with these distinctive features. The greenway I spotted the bird on was in a flood zone with decent tree diversity and abundant wildlife and bugs. I will be going back with binoculars and a camera, but if anybody is in the area and wants to look I spotted it between the 3.5 and 3.75 mi marker on the McAlpine creek greenway. Again I don’t want to be the boy who cried wolf, but I feel like I have to put this out there.

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