Upperwing Pattern

Next, we compare the upperwing patterns of Pileated Woodpecker and Ivory-billed Woodpecker with those in the Luneau video.

Pileated Woodpecker has predominantly black upperwings and crescent-shaped white patches near the wingtips (below, right). These white “windows” appear when the wings are fully open because the primary and outermost secondary flight feathers have white bases. The innermost half of the open wing is almost entirely black.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker (below, left) has substantially more white on the upper surface of the wings compared to the Pileated Woodpecker. The trailing half of each wing has a broad white patch extending in a continuous band from the innermost secondaries out as far as primary #5 in all specimens and primary #6 or #7 in some. The innermost 3 to 5 secondaries are entirely white, so these white wing patches extend inward all the way to the black body.



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

The upperwing pattern is more difficult to discern in the Luneau video because of the angle of the flying bird. As the bird first appears to the right of tree, however, in addition to the white right underwing, a white patch appears to the left of the black body (red bar in image below; video clip begins at Field 250; note also that white can be seen on the back in the final two fields of this clip). By carefully following this white patch in subsequent video fields, we see that initially this is the bird's left upperwing and clearly not part of the tree or a white video artifact. As the downstroke proceeds, the underside of the wing comes into view. This pattern of white on the upperwing extending to the body at the top of the upstroke and beginning of the downstroke, repeats on subsequent wing flaps and is perhaps best seen in field 700 (below).

Click the image below to launch video sequence. You can scroll manually through the clip 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.

Video fields revealing the dorsal wing surface of Pileated Woodpeckers (below, left and center) show extensive black, especially along the trailing edge (red bars). In contrast, the dorsal surface of the left wing of the bird in the Luneau video (Field 700, below, right) is extensively white at the trailing edge to the base.

                                                                           Field 700

The upperwing surfaces of the fleeing woodpecker are more exposed as the bird begins to gain altitude and veer to the left. At this point, despite the poor resolution, many fields reveal white extending along the back of the wing from near the tip all the way to the body.


In this video sequence, as the bird gains elevation and veers left, the bird looks like a "giant Red-headed Woodpecker." Launch the video sequence.

Continued on next page.