Glossary of Ivory-billed Woodpecker Terminology

An entomologist we’ve consulted a couple of times suggested that adding a glossary of Ivory-billed Woodpecker related terms might be a good idea (someone wrote in to inquire, and yes, we got an etymological suggestion from an entomologist.) We hope this page is helpful, especially for those unfamiliar with ivorybill-related lore and literature. We may add to it in response to questions and suggestions or when appropriate.

ADK: An abbreviation for anthropogenic double knock (see below), a human generated imitation of a sound characteristic of the ivorybill, used in an effort to attract a bird or induce a reply. Some searchers use a device developed by David Martin and Cornell University that includes a resonator box and a pair of connected dowels. We prefer to use two separate dowels cut from cypress branches.

Allen and Kellogg: Arthur A. Allen and Paul Kellogg, Cornell University Ornithologists who studied ivorybills in Florida in the 1920s and led the 1935 expedition to the Singer Tract.

Bales: Stephen Lynn Bales, author of Ghost Birds, a detailed account of Tanner’s study of the ivorybill, based on his field notes and material supplied by Nancy, his widow. Mrs. Tanner passed away in 2013. In the course of his research, Bales and Mrs. Tanner, discovered a trove of previously overlooked photographs of “Sonny Boy”, a fledgling ivory bill. They are available here.

Campephilus: The genus to which the ivorybill belongs.

Campephilus principalis: Scientific name for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Cerambycidae: Family of beetles that is known to have been a major food source for the ivorybill.

DBH: Diameter at breast height, a way of describing tree size.

Double knock: A communication technique characteristic of Campephilus woodpeckers, the equivalent of drumming in other woodpecker species.

DOWO: Four-letter code for Downy Woodpecker.

Dryocopus: The genus to which Pileated Woodpeckers belong.

Dryocopus pileatus: Pileated Woodpecker.

HAWO: Four-letter code for Hairy Woodpecker.

IBWO: Four-letter code for Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Imperial Woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis): A close ivorybill relative found in montane Mexican pine forests, thought by many to be extinct.

IMWO: Four-letter code for the Imperial Woodpecker.

John’s Bayou Pair: The only pair of ivorybills that has been extensively studied and observed. This pair had been somewhat acclimated to human presence and nested in the same vicinity throughout Tanner’s study.

Kent: The most common transliteration for the call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, sometimes written as “Kint”. Both spellings have been used as a colloquial term for the species.

J.J. Kuhn: Game Warden in the Singer Tract during most of the years when James T. Tanner was conducting his study. Kuhn was responsible for finding virtually all the ivorybills in the Singer Tract, leading the Cornell team to nest sites in 1935, including the nest of the pair Tanner studied in depth in subsequent years.

Melanerpes carolinus: Scientific name for Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Melanerpes erythrocephalus: Scientific name for Red-headed Woodpecker.

Picoides pubescens: Scientific name for Downy Woodpecker.

Picoides villosus: Scientific name for Hairy Woodpecker.

PIWO: Four-letter code for Pileated Woodpecker.

RBWO: Four-letter code for Red-bellied Woodpecker.

RHWO: Four-letter code for Red-headed Woodpecker.

Scaling: Removal of bark, a feeding strategy employed by many woodpecker species and one for which Campephilus woodpeckers are particularly well adapted. In true scaling, only the bark and cambium layers are affected. The sapwood remains intact, or at most will display some superficial gouge marks.

Singer Tract: A large tract of mature forest, some of it old growth, in northern Louisiana that was logged in the 1940s; site of the only in depth study of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and of the last universally accepted sighting in 1944. About half of the original acreage has been acquired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Restoration of the bottomland hardwood forests in the Tensas National Wildlife Refuge is ongoing.

Single knock: Another, perhaps less common, communication technique used by Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Single knocks are an alarm or displacement behavior in other Campephilus woodpeckers.

James T. Tanner: Author of the only in-depth study of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Tanner observed ivorybills (almost exclusively during breeding season) in the Singer Tract from 1935-1941. His monograph, published in 1942, is the only book-length, first-hand account of the species. As such, it has developed an almost canonical status, so much that Tanner’s own caveat that the conclusions drawn from his observations, “ . . . will not necessarily apply to the species as it once was nor to individuals living in other areas” is frequently ignored.