A shiny blue-black in color with extensive white markings on its wings and neck, this bird is distinguished by its pure white bill and by a prominent top crest, red in the male and black in the female. A true woodpecker, it has a strong and straight chisellike bill and a long, mobile, hard-tipped, sticky tongue. It measures from 18 to 20 in. (46–51 cm) in length, with short legs and feet ending in large, curved claws. The ivory-bill deposits from three to five glossy white eggs per clutch in an unlined hole, preferably drilled in a cypress tree. Of its reproductive habits little more than this is known.
The decrease in the number of ivory-bills may be largely blamed on the cutting and eventual disappearance of the trees in which they lived. It is not known how many ivory-bills may survive today in the forests of the S United States and in Cuba. Ivory-billed woodpeckers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Piciformes, family Picidae.
See T. Gallagher, The Grail Bird (2005).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology