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Imperial Woodpecker stuff

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Old Wednesday 30th September 2009, 17:47   #1
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Question Imperial Woodpecker stuff

I'm just an arm chair explorer these days; a vicarious bird watcher. So my imagination wanders far and wide. Lately I've been interested in the Campephilus group, namely the Ivory-bills of the north end of the range; especially the Imperial Woodpecker.

I recently bought the book: "The Travails of Two Woodpeckers" (2009), by Noel Snyder, et al. It shifts the blame from (selective) logging to extermination by myriads of little people with guns. That goes for both the Ivory-billed Woodpecker of southeastern USA and the Mexican Imperial.

I saw a reference to an unconfirmed sighting in the Big Bend National Park, but have been unable to relocate that tidbit of information. That would have been before 1958. There is a book "A Naturalist's Mexico" (1992) by Roland H. Wauer. In a short chapter on the Maderas del Carmen (Coahuila, Mexico) that he found evidence of a large crested woodpecker. Two friends of his later actually saw a large crested woodpecker. But I have never seen any follow up discussion of this. That location is technically in the Sierra Madre Orientals, and not the Sierra Madre Occidentals where the Imperial Woodpecker is or was limited. Snyder notes that the Imperial Woodpecker has shown little or no inclination to wander far outside of its original home range. That leaves me to suspect that the large crested woodpecker (population?) in the Maderas del Carmen is/was another species. The unconfirmed sighting in the (nearby) Big Bend country of Texas may have not been an Imperial, but this other mysterious species. Possibilities other than Imperial would be Pileated (not supposed to be there), Ivory-billed (not supposed to be there either), or a Campephilus species or subspecies not yet publicly acknowledged.

It has been shown by DNA analysis that the Imperial is more closely related to the Cuban Ivory-bill than to C. p. principalis. That may hint at the mysterious large crested woodpecker species seen in the Maderas del Carmen is or was closely related to C. principalis.

That pretty much exhausts my thinking on the subject, for now.

Last edited by old coot : Wednesday 30th September 2009 at 21:47.
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Old Thursday 27th October 2011, 07:36   #2
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Lammertink et al

Lammertink, Gallagher, Rosenberg, Fitzpatrick, Liner, Rojas-Tomé & Escalante (in press). Film documentation of the probably extinct Imperial Woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis). Auk. [abstract, story, videos] [pdf]
BLI Species factsheet.

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Old Thursday 27th October 2011, 12:40   #3
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Film here -
DigiPics & Artwork - Digivideos -
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Old Friday 28th October 2011, 20:24   #4
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Such a beautiful bird, even in that grainy footage.

Reading about a return to the site where it was taken ( is saddening, not just for the loss of the bird and its habitat but also for the violence that rules the day down there.
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Old Friday 28th October 2011, 22:02   #5
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This article, in contrast, made me optimistic about IW survival.

Kudos for them for trying birding in such a dangerous area. But birds were reliably seen in several places until 1990s, there was only one survey recently, and authors couldn't visit many possible areas. There is still room open for birds surviving. Incredible, BTW, how little visited are areas of Mexico not so distant from birders-rich south USA.
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Old Tuesday 2nd April 2013, 13:18   #6
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Gallagher 2013

Gallagher 2013. Imperial Dreams: Tracking the Imperial Woodpecker Through the Wild Sierra Madre. Atria Books.

Reviewed by Jim Williams, ABA Blog / Birding: Pitoreal.
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Old Tuesday 23rd June 2015, 21:20   #7
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The famous William Rhein film about the Imperial Woodpecker in Durango, Mexico is now published with a narration by Rhein.
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