Mostly black, with a red crest on the male (the female has no red on the head). A large white stripe runs from behind the eye and down the neck on both sides of the head. When the bird is at rest, large white patches are visible near the ends of the wings. While it is flying, white is visible on both the upper and lower portions of the inner flight feathers. The bill is an ivory color. 50 cm (19.5 in) in length.
The known breeding season occurred from approximately January to April. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker required snags in mature old-growth forest for nesting. Nests ranged 4.5-21 m (15-70 feet) in height. The female laid 1-5 (usually 2-3) eggs that both adults incubated for approximately 20 days. The male incubated at night and the female incubated during the day. The young were altricial and fledged within 35 days of hatching. Apparently the male did most of the nest sanitation and brooding.
The habitat where this species once occurred was mature old-growth forest and cypress swamps. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker diet consisted mostly of wood-boring insects such as beetle larvae, but it also ate other insect, fruit, and seeds. It was the only U.S. woodpecker able to pry unloosened bark off trees. It more commonly fed on insects in dead or dying portions of live trees.
Today this woodpecker has no known range within the United States, and it is unlikely that any populations continue to exist outside the United States. Its former range was in the southeastern United States, including all of the Southeast north to southeastern North Carolina, west to Missouri, and southwest through Oklahoma and Texas. The last positive sightings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker were in Cuba in 1987. Although there have been more recent reports, none have been verified.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is Federally listed as Endangered, and is thought to be extinct. Loss of habitat is thought to be the major cause of this species' decline and extinction.
The species most similar to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is the Pileated Woodpecker. The Pileated Woodpecker is smaller than an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but adults of both have a red crest and dark bill. While a Pileated Woodpecker is in flight, very little white is visible from above, and the wing lining is white from below. The Pileated Woodpecker also has white on the chin and a small white eye stripe that extends from behind the eye to the red crest.