Bryn Athyn College professor Figge BryntessonAbington, Pa. – Frederik Bryntesson speaks about his research on the Ivory-bill woodpeckers along the Chipola River in Florida at the Wyncote Audubon Society on January 15, 2021. 

In 1950, many ornithologists believed the largest woodpecker in the U.S., the Ivory-billed woodpecker was extinct or dangerously rare. When Ivory-bills were reported along the Chipola River in northwestern Florida in early 1950, the National Audubon Society promptly established the Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary (1950-1952) in an effort to protect the birds.

The Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary provides an excellent example of the change in mindset that led to growing awareness of the need to conserve wildlife and their habitat. Our story is not just about a bird; it is also about the people who were enchanted with the ghost bird and their dedicated and passionate quest to find and protect the Ivory-billed woodpecker.

Fredrik Bryntesson is an Associate Professor of Biology at Bryn Athyn College, PA. He and William C. Hunter (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) have located a considerable amount of primary unpublished archival evidence such as field notes, reports, and correspondence from the time period when the sanctuary was in place. These sources have enabled a comprehensive historical account of the searches for Ivory-bills along the Chipola River, the evidence they amassed, and the story of the sanctuary itself including exactly where it was located.