‘Lord God’ bird may not be extinct, three year quest for elusive bird concludes

Mr Latta said the size and markings of the bird in the images is strong evidence that it is not another woodpecker, such as its most similar relative, the pileated or red-headed woodpecker.

“It reinforced to me that, yes, this bird does exist and left me feeling a sense of responsibility to protect it for the future,” he said.

Describing his own encounter, Mr Lata said: “It flew up at an angle and I watched it for about six to eight seconds, which was fairly long for an ivory-billed woodpecker,” he told The Guardian.

“I was surprised. I was visibly shaking afterwards. You realise you’ve seen something special that very few people had the opportunity to see.”

The ivory-billed woodpecker once inhabited forests and swamps across the southeastern US and Cuba, but its population declined from the 19th century from poaching and logging.

Geoffrey Hill, a biologist at Auburn University who has participated in previous unsuccessful attempts to find the bird, said the research was persuasive.

Mr Hill said sightings of the birds were difficult because their habitats were largely inaccessible.

“Some people cannot believe a bird can defy documentation by modern humans because we have such dominion over nature but it is endlessly interesting because if it has done that, it’s one pretty impressive bird,” he told The Guardian.

He added: “They have better eyes than we do, they are high in the trees and actively flee people. They aren’t great thinkers but they have developed a pretty simple strategy to avoid people.”