Detailed analysis of the video of a large woodpecker (the "Luneau video") obtained at Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas, on 25 April 2004

Authors of this web site: Martjan Lammertink, Kenneth V. Rosenberg, John W. Fitzpatrick, M. David Luneau, Jr., Tim W. Gallagher, Marc Dantzker.

Originally published: February 8, 2006

Last updated: February 22, 2006


Until recently, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) was presumed extinct in the United States because no conclusive evidence for the bird’s continued existence had been obtained since 1944. In April 2005, we announced the rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the “Big Woods” of eastern Arkansas (Fitzpatrick et al. 2005). Evidence for the existence of Ivory-billed Woodpecker in this region in 2004 and 2005 consists of seven carefully described sightings (Rosenberg et al. 2005), suggestive sound recordings (Charif et al. 2005), and a video clip showing a black-and-white woodpecker having the apparent size and plumage patterns of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Fitzpatrick et al. 2005). The video clip was obtained by David Luneau on 25 April 2004 and is referred to here as "the Luneau video." To view a flight sequence of the bird fleeing through the forest at normal speed click here. Click here to watch the sequence zoomed-in and in slow-motion. 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.

The three video clips below show the Luneau video in higher resolution. The first clip shows the normal view, the second is magnified, and the third shows a perched object. Click each image to launch the videos.



David Luneau (l) and Robert Henderson obtained  a video of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker on 25 April, 2004 by canoeing around Bayou de View in the Cache River NWR with a constantly running video camera.

Identification of the woodpecker in the Luneau video hinges on determining whether the bird is an Ivory-billed Woodpecker or the similar, somewhat smaller Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). Technical imperfections of the Luneau video make this a challenging identification puzzle, but after detailed analysis we concluded that the video contains sufficient data to resolve the identification unambiguously. Because the journal Science requires brevity in both words and figures, we did not present in that article many of the figures we had prepared, or prepared subsequently, in analyzing the video.

Here we present our detailed analysis of the Luneau video, for purposes of clarification and amplification of the findings presented in Fitzpatrick et al. (2005). In the text and figures to follow, field numbers associated with images from the Luneau video refer to those referenced in Fitzpatrick et al. (2005 Supplementary Online Material). The original authors of the Science paper are John W. Fitzpatrick, Martjan Lammertink, M. David Luneau Jr., Tim W. Gallagher, Bobby R. Harrison, Gene M. Sparling, Kenneth V. Rosenberg, Ronald W. Rohrbaugh, Elliott C. H. Swarthout, Peter H. Wrege, Sara Barker Swarthout, Marc S. Dantzker, Russell A. Charif, Timothy R. Barksdale, J. V. Remsen Jr., Scott D. Simon, and Douglas Zollner.

In addition to the authors listed above, we are grateful to the following individuals for critical discussions about the video, woodpecker identification and behavior, bird flight dynamics, and video analysis of bird behavior: L. Bevier, K. Bostwick, M. Braun, N. Brinkley, K. Dial, G. Graves, J. Hailman, J. Jackson, D. James, D. Lane, C. Marantz, K. McGowan, M. Patten, R. Prum, J.V. Remsen, Jr., M. Robbins, G. Rosenberg, D. Sibley, J. Sterling, D. Stotz, B. Sullivan, B. Tobalske, J. Wells, B. Whitney, D. Willard, H. Winkler, G. Woolfenden, and K. Zimmer. We thank the curators and collection managers of the following collections for access to specimens under their care: American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), Cornell Museum of Vertebrates (CUMV), Field Museum of Natural History, Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, Peabody Museum at Yale University, Museo de Historia Natural de Cuba, Instituto de Ecología y Sistematica (La Habana), Universidad de La Habana, U.S. National Museum of Natural History.

We extend our thanks to the following people for their review and detailed comments regarding this web site: Kim Bostwick, Ken Able, Ned Brinkley, David Mehlman, Russ Charif, Chuck Hunter, J.V. Remsen, and Scott Simon.

We would also like to acknowledge those who assisted in the construction of these web pages: Patricia Leonard, Eric Liner, Sam Crowe, Eric Banford, Ben Clock, Greg Delisle, Susan Spear, Miyoko Chu, and Constance L. Bruce.

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