Bottomland Ghost: Southern Encounters and Obsessions with the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

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Bottomland Ghost: Southern Encounters and Obsessions with the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

by Michael K. Steinberg
Southern Cultures, Vol. 14, No. 1: Spring 2008

"Until the announcement in 2005 of the rediscovery of the ivory-bill, there had not been a broadly accepted ivory-bill for sixty years."

Among birders in the South, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a haunting presence whose status is debated at ornithological meetings, in popular media outlets and leading scientific journals, and on birding web sites such as the Ivory-bill Researchers Forum. The woodpecker conjures up images of deep and foreboding bottomland forests, of John James Audubon exploring and painting the South, and of a wild southern landscape home to wolves, panthers, and innumerable species of birds, long before the southern forests were felled to create fields for cotton and soybeans. The ivory-bill’s nicknames—the Lord God Bird, the Log God Bird, and King of the Woodpeckers—indicate the esteem that birders, naturalists, and others hold for this majestic species.