Mystery Bird: Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus

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[Mystery bird] photographed in the Big Woods region of eastern Arkansas.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.


Review all mystery birds to date.

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About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Mystery Bird: Pileated Woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus

  1. Selasphorus says:

    Well, it’s purported to be an Ivory-billed Woodpecker (the large white edges of the wings being the fieldmark), but I don’t think it’s yet been confirmed. The other option put forward is a Pileated Woodpecker with partial albinism in the wings, I believe.
    At any rate, I recognize the video. 😉

  2. JohnB says:

    I’ve watched this video over and over and I don’t think it can be said with certainty, despite what the “official” Lab of O folks say, that it is an Ivory billed Woodpecker. I think they are wrong in their analysis of certain sections of it, as when the bird takes off and parts of it can be seen to the left of the tree. The only way to be able to get an accurate idea of what one is looking at here is to run it in sequence, and the folks at Cornell have made an identification based on selected individual frames, in which one can see almost whatever one wants to.
    Anyway, I’ll say inconclusive. A big woodpecker.

  3. Rick Wright says:

    Incredibly instructive, this video, which I hadn’t looked at for months. The point to be made is that we can’t identify a bird correctly if we don’t know what part of it we’re seeing; and in this case, many analyses, including the initial one, seem to have mistaken the under surface of the wing for the upper surface.

  4. i am glad you all enjoyed seeing this video. i was interested to see what people’s reaction would since the elation had died down a bit — i never was convinced this was an ivory-billed woodpecker but accepted the initial “discoverers” word for it since they were the ones with the science paper, not me. but after i’d had more time to think and watch the video, i think i was right and THEY were wrong.
    but THEY still have the science paper, not me! and a science or nature paper is what looks good on a CV — MUCH better than being correct.