Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
PICUS IMPERIALIS, Gould.
The following note, which I have received from Mr. TOWNSEND, refers to this
splendid Woodpecker. "On the 14th of August, 1834, I saw several specimens of a
large black Woodpecker, about the size of Picus principalis. A broad band of
white appeared to extend transversely across the wings and back. It inhabited
the tall pine trees, and was very shy. The note was almost exactly that of the
Red-headed Woodpecker, so much so that at first Mr. NUTTALL and myself were both
deceived by it. I lingered behind the party, which at that time was travelling
rapidly, and at last got a shot at one of them with slugs, my large shot having
been entirely expended. The bird fell wounded into a thicket at a considerable
distance. I searched for an hour, without finding it, and was at last compelled
to relinquish it and follow the party, which had been leaving me at a rapid
trot, to find my way as I best could, and keep out of the reach of Indians, who
were dogging us continually. Who can describe the chagrin and positive misery
of a poor fellow in my then situation!
"The only account of this species that I have met with is the following,
extracted from the "Proceedings of the Committee of Science and Correspondence
of the Zoological Society of London," Part II. 1832, p. 140.--"Specimens were
exhibited of a species of Woodpecker, hitherto undescribed, which has recently
been obtained by Mr. GOULD from that little explored district of California,
which borders the territory of Mexico. The exhibition was accompanied by a
communication from Mr. GOULD, in which, after some general remarks on the
Picidae, and their geographical distribution, he referred to the species before
the Committee as possessing the characters of the genus Picus in their most
marked development, together with the greatest size hitherto observed in that
group. In this respect it as far exceeds the Ivory-billed Woodpecker of the
United States, Picus principalis, as the latter does the Picus martius of
Europe. Mr. GOULD described it as the
"Picus imperialis. Mas. Pie. ater, virescenti-splendens; crista elongate
occipitali coccinea; macula triangulari interseapulari, remigibus secundariis,
primariarumque (praeter terium quatuorve exteriorum) rachibus intermis albis;
"Foem. Paullo minor; crista occipitali cum corpore concolore.
"Longitudo manis, 2 ped.; alae (clausae), 1 ped.; caudae, 10 unc.; tarsi,
vix 2 unc.; digiti externi portici, eadem ac tarsi, ungues validissimi, arcuati;
rostrum exacte cuneiforme, a rictu ad apice 4 unc. long., ad basin 1 unc. latum.
"This species is readily distinguishable from the Pic. principalis by its
much larger size; by the length of its occipital crest, the pendent silky
feathers of which measure nearly four inches; by the absence of the white stripe
which ornaments the neck of that bird, and by the bristles which cover its
nostrils being black, whereas those of the Pic. principalis are white."
A figure of this species will be given at the end of the work, if a
specimen can be procured.
PICUS IMPERIALIS, Gould, Proceed. of Com. Sc. and Corresp. of Zool. Soc.
of Lond., part ii. p. 140.
IMPERIAL WOODPECKER, Picus imperialis, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v. P. 313.
Glossy greenish-black; the elongated occipital crest scarlet; a triangular
spot on the fore part of the back; the secondary quills, and the inner webs of
most of the primaries, white; bill yellowish-white. Female similar, but without
red on the head.
Male, 24, wing, 12.
Rocky Mountains and North California.