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Steven C. Latta – No Fool’s Errand: A Search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana

Director of Conservation and Field Research, National Aviary in Pittsburgh

The history of decline of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is long, complex, and controversial. The last widely accepted sighting of this species in continental North America was 1944. A collaboration between Project Principalis and the National Aviary has produced personal observations, sound recordings, trail camera photos, and drone videos suggesting the consistent presence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers at our study site in Louisiana. Data indicate repeated re-use of foraging sites and core habitat. I will present some of these data, offer insights into behaviors of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker that contribute to difficulty in finding this species, and discuss some promising avenues for future research.

Steven C. Latta is Director of Conservation and Field Research at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. A native of Northern Michigan, he was educated at Kalamazoo College, the University of Michigan, and University of Missouri. After serving for 4 years as Director of the Latin American Program at Point Reyes Bird Observatory, he came to the National Aviary in 2006. Latta works extensively on Hispaniola, and across the Caribbean islands and Latin America, where his research has focused on understanding how migrant and resident species respond to natural and anthropogenic changes to habitat. He has used the Louisiana Waterthrush as a model species to study population dynamics and carry-over effects on both the temperate breeding and Neotropical over-wintering grounds. He is also using this species to understand the impact on birds of important water quality management issues including acid mine drainage and the use of hydraulic fracturing to access natural gas deposits. In 2019, he began a collaboration with Project Principalis in a search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Louisiana.

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