A majestic black-and-white striped woodpecker with a long beak and a high plume of red feathers on its head has been declared extinct in the US, the government said Wednesday.
The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, a favorite of bird watchers that was seen mostly in the southeast, swampy region of the US, was the most notable of the species declared extinct, along with 22 other birds, fish and other species.
Others, like the flat pigtoe, a freshwater mussel, also found in the southeast, were rarely seen and were considered headed for extinction, even as they were put on the endangered species list years ago.
It is rare for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to declare a species extinct, and somewhat controversial, since reported sightings of the woodpecker over the years gave bird watchers hope.
The agency announced on its website that it stands ready to implement a recovery plan if the bird is ever sighted again. But if no sightings are reported in the next three months, the "extinct" label becomes permanent. It is also thought the bird, or a close relative, might still exist in Cuba.
The factors behind the 23 extinctions all point to one thing: man. Water pollution, development, logging, competition from invasive species brought by human travel, birds killed for feathers or animals captured by private collectors were all factors.
A study in 2019 and reported in the journal Science, found that the bird count in the US and Canada, estimated around 10 billion in 1970, had fallen 29% to about 7.2 billion and there, too, loss of habitat was blamed.
Wednesday's declaration would mark the highest number of species ever declared extinct at one time.
Since the Endangered Species Act was signed into US law in the 1960s, only 11 species have been declared officially "extinct."/agencies