Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers Discover Only Recorded Flight of Lost Imperial Woodpecker

It was once the undisputed king of its clan, but most believe the imperial woodpecker faded unseen into the pages of history sometime in the late 20th century in the high mountains of Mexico.

But now, thanks to some keen detective work, the largest woodpecker that ever lived can be seen by the world once more – and this 85-second flight through time offers us a lesson about its behavior, and ours.

“It is stunning to look back through time with this film and see the magnificent imperial woodpecker moving through its old-growth forest environment, said research associate Martjan Lammertink, lead author of the paper along with four Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff members and two Mexican biologists. “And it is heartbreaking to know that both the bird and the forest are gone.”

The imperial woodpecker was thought to have gone extinct without anyone ever capturing photos or film of the 2-foot-tall, flamboyantly crested bird. That was until a biologist from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology tracked down a 16-mm film shot in 1956 by a dentist from Pennsylvania. The footage, which captures the last confirmed sighting of an imperial woodpecker in the wild, is available for viewing at

In the color film, a female imperial woodpecker hitches up and forages on the trunks of large Durango pines and then launches into flight.

The film was shot by William Rhein with a hand-held camera from the back of a mule while camping in a remote location in the Sierra Madre Occidental in Durango state. In March 2010, Lammertink and Tim Gallagher of the Cornell Lab launched an expedition with members of the conservation group Pronatura Noroeste to identify and survey the film site. The expedition turned up no evidence that imperial woodpeckers are still alive.

The entire range of the imperial woodpecker lay in the high country of the Sierra Madre Occidental – a rugged mountain range stretching some 900 miles south from the U.S.-Mexico border – and the Transvolcanic mountains of central Mexico. The species largely vanished in the late 1940s and 1950s as logging destroyed their old-growth pine forest habitat. Imperial woodpeckers were also frequently shot for food, to use in folk remedies or out of curiosity.

The imperial woodpecker was the closest relative of the ivory-billed woodpecker, which suffered a similar decline from habitat loss in the southeastern United States and Cuba. A 2005 study by the Cornell Lab reported the rediscovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas, but subsequent region-wide surveys did not find evidence of a surviving population.

The research appears in the October 2011 issue of The Auk, the journal of the American Ornithologists’ Union. In addition to Lammertink and Gallagher, authors of the article include Kenneth V. Rosenberg, John Fitzpatrick and Eric Liner of the Cornell Lab, and Jorge Rojas-Tomé of Organización Vida Silvestre and Patricia Escalante of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Nota: los miembros del equipo de investigación y científicos de conservación Martjan Lammertink, del laboratorio de ornitología en Cornell y Patricia Escalante, de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, están disponibles para ser entrevistados en español.

John Carberry | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>