National Projects

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Project

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis is one of the rarest birds in the world; it has been seen or heard in the last decade in at least four US states by various researchers. National Biodiversity Parks (NBP) has been field testing woodpecker (Picidae) responses and attraction to Ivory-billed Woodpecker double knock and kent simulations from 2006 to 2015 in 4 states. In 2007, ’08 and ’09, under formal federal permits, several of us spent ~ 80 man days studying responses in Congaree National Park.

aaaaa Ivory-bill_pair
2375 copy double knock fred congaree ivory bill
In 2006 NBP realized that wide ranging and wary Ivory-bills would not be easy to locate, relocate or photograph. It was contemplated that a study to ascertain whether individuals can be attracted to or towards a central point could facilitate the eventual netting and radioing of birds. A single netted/radioed bird would provide missing but crucial data on genetic viability, critical habitat, and important ecological information such as diurnal movement patterns, breeding phenology, food items and range. Most importantly radio tracking should lead researchers to the discovery of more individuals.
During 3,000 plus researcher hours spent hiking, canoeing and performing attraction double knocks and/or kents at over 320 survey points in 4 states, Ivory-billeds were heard or seen at three discrete ecosystems plus one other possible location. Over 10 acoustical responses or series of acoustical responses, most heard by multiple researchers were consistent only with Ivory-bills and two sightings occurred. One of the sightings resulted when an Ivory-billed was likely attracted to the immediate source point of the simulated double knocks. The other sighting was very brief (less the two seconds) and the only Ivory-billed response double knock of that week’s field study was heard by two researchers at that exact spot 40 minutes after the sighting.
AA aaaaa FL Green Swamp 08 Pine Gob 2 opy
AA Choctawhatchee River, FL O copy dead trees bank ivory bill copy
As a control, Picidae responses in many NJ locations where Pileated Woodpecker reach their greatest local concentrations were studied. No return kent calls or double knocks occurred at any point after Ivory-billed Woodpecker double knock and kent simulations were performed. NBP also visited many areas in the southeastern US that are not considered to have strong modern assertions of Ivory-billeds and/or have suboptimal habitat. No return kent calls or double knocks occurred at any of these points after Ivory-billed Woodpecker double knock and kent simulations.
In 2010 we photographed recent roost holes in LA that best match the characteristics of Campephilus roosts. Other biologists and citizens had reported Ivory-bills in this exact area and the roost hole positions were shared with us. Ivory-bills have not been seen in the area since 2010 after habitat destruction/fire caused be a helicopter crash.

While gathering extensive Picidae response data to simulated double knocks and kents, collated to exact GPS coordinates, we also gathered evidence of observed Ivory-billed density, habitat preferences and other pertinent parameters.

This project is considered ongoing; the data, interpretation and conclusions are still accumulating. The data will eventually be released as needed.

The large amount of information gathered and field time spent in several states indicates C. principalis was recently extant and likely still is.

AA Congaree 10-09 278 copy cypress emile large tree congaree
aaaaa 261 copy
Many species of Picidae react to simulations of Ivory-billed calls including putative Ivory-billeds. However when C. principalis was suspected the individuals could not be enticed to approach closer than 200 feet in secondary forest with thick understory and/or midstory or within 200 yards in late seral, virgin gallery forest areas such as found in Congaree National Park, select areas of Kisatchie National Forest and the Choctawhatchee River corridor.

Ivory-billeds that have the potential to move towards a signaling conspecific, likely use visual and audio clues to closely approach the acoustical stimuli. In the presence of a human imitator, the fraudulent signaler is either seen by the observant and wary Ivory-billed from a distance or one of the signals many parameters is deemed incorrect. Even if the signal is correct, Ivory-billeds which were heavily hunted, may need to see the conspecific before making the final close approach. Ivory-billeds can likely spot a signaling bird from quite a distance in primary forest. The historical hunting and collecting of Ivory-billeds for at least hundreds of years is well documented. There is evidence that human hunters used double knocks to lure in and shoot Ivory-billeds; the species avoidance of people and false acoustical lures is likely genetically based.

In our studies Ivory-bills were more often heard than seen. In two separate superior habitats one Ivory-billed Woodpecker would be heard in approximately seven field days using attraction methods. In one of the same areas a loud ambient kent call was heard from a short distance by the entire field crew of three.

In many large contiguous areas of even aged secondary forest 60 to 80 years old that we surveyed or explored no Ivory-billeds were encountered despite many field days. In many suboptimal habitat of tens of thousands of acres taking many field days to acoustically survey, putative Ivory-billeds were not encountered.

2364 copy congaree ivory bill pileated

Only single putative Ivory-billeds were encountered but temporally we performed many points outside the breeding phenology of the species; pairs may respond more infrequently to signals at these times.
Also see our three website sections on Ivory-billed field trips, sightings report and matching grants.

Please call or contact us if you would like to inquire about our studies, assist on continuing this important field project or tell us about your ideas or findings.

Contact us

Avidiversity Studies in the Eastern US

Studying a diverse taxon of vertebrates in the Eastern US, birds, provides broad ecological data and often insight into which niches and habitats are being degraded or lost. NBP, stakeholders, scientists and our volunteers have carefully reviewed contemporary single site data for high avidiversity and species lists and converted this into action by proposing specific areas for preservation efforts. We have done this in NJ; but are interested in partnering mainly as a facilitator with other individuals/organizations in NJ and other states.

Field data can directly confirm which birds have suffered local extirpations or have declined to critically low population numbers. NBP is dedicated to assisting species that are locally rare and on the verge of extirpation.Many of these animals may be receiving minimal conservation attention since they are not on Federal or State endangered species lists. The last individuals of these species need local citizens to get involved or they will disappear forever from our immediate areas and counties. Local extirpations can lead to state-wide extinctions.

We can help citizens/partners develop a short list of pragmatic projects that can directly help the last individuals of select species in danger of local extirpation. Please contact us if you would like us to assist you in these important projects. Your participation may include field surveying (birding!), nest box erection, research, management and/or advocacy.

Here are some of the NJ birds we are interested in but the species that you propose for needed research in your area/state can be different.
Heron spp., Union, Bergen and Hudson County, NJ

Black Skimmer, Union County, NJ

Willet, Union and Middlesex County, NJ

Upland Sandpiper, Ocean and Sussex County, NJ

Ducks, Bergen County, NJ

Pileated Woodpecker, all of NJ

Northern Harrier, Union County, NJ and Staten Island, NY

Barred Owl, Bergen and Ocean County

Barn Owl, Union and Middlesex County, NJ

Barn Owl, Bergen and Hudson County, NJ

Hermit Thrush, Bergen County, NJ

Marsh Wren, Union and Bergen County, NJ

Warblers, Bergen County, NJ

Warblers, Monmouth County, NJ

Warblers, Union County, NJ

Willow Flycatcher, Union County, NJ

Grasshopper Sparrow, Monmouth County, NJ

Seaside Sparrow, Union County, NJ
Please contact us if you would like to assist on some of these projects or suggest a project.

Contact us

Lakehurst Naval Base, NJ

Some areas of the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst (NJ) are managed via tree suppression to meet its main mission. This allows the early successional grassland habitat to artificially remain in stasis year after year. These grasslands may be similar to the ephemeral habitat type that existed in a mosaic pattern in pre-settlement times throughout the New Jersey Pine Barrens and elsewhere due to periodic fires. Natural fires are now largely suppressed in the Barrens and elsewhere; the Lakehurst grassland community is now a remnant of this endangered habitat.
In a small section of the 42,000 acre Joint Base the insect, herptile and avian grassland community is exceptional. NBP, as a Department of Defense approved biological contractor performed extensive formal surveying of breeding birds while leading various biodiversity-centric field trips for the public.
Please contact us to get on our field trip waiting list and check our field trip section on this website.
Birds found here, in state and regionally significant numbers, include Grasshopper Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks and Upland Sandpipers. No grassland complex in NJ has higher numbers of these species. Additional grassland species include Horned Lark, American Kestrel and occasionally Henslow’s Sparrow. Common Nighthawk, Whip-poor-will, Eastern Bluebird, various swallows, Brown Thrasher, Prairie Warbler, Pine Warbler, Eastern Towhee and many other species reach high densities while American Bittern, Bald Eagle, Blue Grosbeak, Hooded Warbler and Northern Waterthrush are found in low numbers.

Rare birds sighted by our surveyors include Mississippi Kite, Olive-sided Flycatchers and Summer Tanager.

The Upland Sandpiper may be making its last stand in New Jersey and possibly the Mid-Atlantic states at Lakehurst; we are quite concerned with this small but stable population. Please contact us if you would like to be placed on our call-back lists for formal surveys, studies or field trips. Please contact us to assist us in our studies.