The Ivory-billed Woodpecker was once found in virgin forests throughout much of the southeastern United States and up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at least as far north as St. Louis. It was also known from mature forests through much of Cuba. The past 100 years of this species' history link U.S. birds to bottomland swamp forests and Cuban birds to upland pines. In truth, throughout its range, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was associated with extensive old-growth forests, the solitude of wilderness, and the availability of immense beetle larvae that were its principal food. The specific forest types in which it survived may have been an accident of human actions.
Human attention to this lord of the forest and human destruction of its realm have led to its cur-rent status as one of the rarest birds in the world, or extinct. In spite of a continued flow of unsubstantiated reports, some with tantalizing but inconclusive evidence, the scientific community has no conclusive documentation for recent occurrence of the species in the United States. The population in Cuba seems little better off, its habitat decimated and the last reported (undocumented by photos or sound recordings) sighting in 1992 (J. McNeeley pers. comm.). James Tanner (1942a) took the last universally accepted photos of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the United States in northeast Louisiana in 1938; John Dennis (1948) took the last photos of this species in Cuba in April 1948.