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jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Ivory-billed Woodpeckers 1

Length of Segment: 00:01:15

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Why is the ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird with a 30-inch wingspan and the second largest woodpecker in the world, an endangered species? The most important reason for its decline was loss of the virgin forest that once covered much of the southeast. This is a bird that thrived in forests with six feet or more in diameter, and bigger trees supported bigger insects. Among the ivory bill’s known food are grubs of long-horned beetles: white, juicy larvae that are often half an inch in diameter and nearly three inches long. These grubs specialize in feeding on the heartwood of trees that have recently died.  Bigger trees support more of the beetles, providing enough for ivory bill meals. But for a continuing supply of food, birds have to have a very large forest, one with a continuing supply of large old trees that are dying. Our best estimates suggest that each pair of ivory bills needs at least six square miles of old-growth bottomland forest to survive.  We still have a few wild areas in Florida that could support the ivory bill, and recent reports from Arkansas give us hope that this magnificent bird might still be with us.

'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.

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