On the following pages we present ten different lines of evidence supporting the identification of the bird in the Luneau video as an Ivory-billed Woodpecker:

underwing pattern

upperwing pattern

comparisons with pileated flight

flight comparisons with other species

wing shape

wingbeat frequency

ivory-bill flight descriptions

white on back

bird launching into flight

perched bird

Underwing Pattern

We begin by comparing the underwing patterns of Pileated Woodpecker and Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Both species have white wing linings, but the amount and position of white in the underwings differs substantially between them.


               Ivory-billed Woodpecker
               M. John Schmitt
               © Cornell Lab
          Pileated Woodpecker
          M. John Schmitt
          © Cornell Lab

Pileated: Broad black trailing edge and tip 

The anterior white wing-linings of the Pileated Woodpecker are extended somewhat by white bases of the primary and outer secondary flight feathers. This combined white area is broadly surrounded along the distal and trailing edges by a black band that is 8–10 cm wide. The dark trailing edge is almost as wide as the white wing lining, and of the entire under-surface of the wing, more than two thirds (68% in the specimen below, right) is black.

Pileated Woodpecker in flight, Cache River NWR, Arkansas. Deinterlaced video still.



Pileated Woodpecker wing, Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, specimen #49236. The red bar measures 9.0 cm long.

Ivory-billed: Mostly white; black tip 

In most Ivory-billed Woodpecker specimens the white wing linings are extended distally by white bases of the outermost primaries. In addition, the trailing edge of the entire wing is broadly white, leaving only a narrow, wedge-shaped black stripe down the central part of the wing. This wedge is highly variable among individual specimens. In some specimens, for example, the inner web of many outer primaries is largely white, while in others the outermost six primaries are virtually all black.  In the photo of the specimen shown below, the wedge disappears entirely near the body, and broadens to 2.3 cm near the tip of the wing linings. Therefore, most of the underwing surface would appear white in an outstretched wing. Compare the underwing surfaces depicted in artwork by N. John Schmitt (below left) and in the photo by Allen and Tanner (below, right), in which only 28% is black.



Ivory-billed Woodpecker in flight, Singer Tract, Louisiana, 1935. Enhanced photo by A.A. Allen and J.T. Tanner.

Specimen of Ivory-billed Woodpecker showing the narrow black underwing stripe. AMNH specimen #429894.

Analysis of fields from the reenactment video

The reenactment video revealed that the diagnostic features of the underwing patterns of both species are clearly visible in blurry video fields, taken under conditions similar to those of the Luneau video. In the Pileated Woodpecker (below, left), the broad black rim on the underwing is present in every field. In contrast, the underwing of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker model (below, right) appears mostly white with a black tip. The latter pattern is strikingly similar to the bird in the Luneau video.

In the reenactment video, the Pileated Woodpecker underwing is half black and in all video fields clearly shows a broad black trailing edge, despite the obvious blurring. Also note the white underwing patch is small compared to the size and diameter of the body.

In the reenactment video, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker underwing appears almost entirely white in all fields. The narrow, black strip down the middle is lost owing to the poor resolution and blur of the video. Also note the white underwing area is large compared to the size and diameter of the body.

To view video clips of a portion of the reenactment, click on the images below. You can scroll manually through these video clips by moving the round button at the bottom of the frame with your mouse, or by using the left-arrow and right-arrow keys on your keyboard.

Reenactment with Ivory-billed Woodpecker model (l) and reenactment with Pileated Woodpecker model (r). In both images the model is facing away from the viewer and angled slightly to the left.

In all fields of the Luneau video, the underwing is predominantly white and the size of the white underwing area is large compared to the diameter of the body. In none of the fields of the Luneau video can we detect a broad black trailing edge as shown by the Pileated Woodpecker model and by all our videos of live Pileated Woodpeckers in flight. In contrast, all fields of Pileated Woodpecker in flight show a smaller white underwing area concentrated along the leading edge of the wing, a significant rim of black making up half the underwing surface, and a diagnostic black trailing edge along the entire length of the wing, from the tip all the way to the body.

Continued on next page