The Imperial Woodpecker, (Campephilus imperialis), was a member of the
woodpecker family Piciformes. It was the world’s largest woodpecker
This 23 inch long bird is officially listed as critically endangered or possibly extinct. However, the last positive sighting was in Durango, Mexico in 1958 and it is probably now extinct. The primary reason for its decline was loss of habitat, although it was also set in motion by over-hunting.
The male had a red crest, but was otherwise black, apart from the inner primaries, which were white-tipped, and white secondaries. The female was similar but the crest was black, not red. It was once widespread throughout the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico.
It preferred open forests made up of Montezuma Pine. It fed mainly by
scaling bark from dead pine trees and feeding on the insect larvae found underneath. A mating pair required a very large area of untouched forest to survive. Given the near total destruction of its original habitat, and the lack of any confirmed sightings in almost 50 years, many ornithologists believe the Imperial Woodpecker must be extinct.
However, there have been a handful of more recent, unconfirmed
sightings. Most recently, in 2005 two birders from Mexico reported a sighting of a bird which could be a female Imperial Woodpecker. This sighting has not been confirmed.
The Imperial Woodpecker’s closest relative is the similar but smaller
Ivory-billed woodpecker, which is also critically endangered or extinct.