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This week’s endangered species is the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) (photo from Michael McCloy, U.S. FWS Website). Found in 11 states (AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, NC, MS, OK, SC, VA, and TX) red-cockaded woodpeckers are endemic to the U.S (check out this cool interactive map of where the woodpeckers are found). These medium-sized woodpeckers (about 7 inches long) nest in live, old-growth pine forests, where they hollow out a cavity in which to nest and eat the insects found on the tree. When they hollow out the nest cavity, the tree seeps pitch or gum out of its wood around the cavity hole, that helps to protect the nest from tree-climbing snakes – so cool! Red-cockaded woodpeckers live in “family” groups, usually with one breeding pair and several helpers. The helpers are usually males from previous breeding seasons (daughters tend to disperse to new groups). The family group hollows out several nesting cavities, and the breeding male chooses the cavity in which to raise 2-5 chicks. Here’s another fun fact – the males incubate the eggs at night! The woodpeckers sound very similar to other woodpeckers you might have heard.
Red-cockaded woodpeckers are currently threatened by habitat loss. The good news is that these birds are benefitting from their protection under the Endangered Species Act. As stated in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, “Red-cockaded woodpeckers have increased in number range-wide in response to recovery and management programs, from an estimated 4,694 active clusters in 1993 to 6,105 in 2006. Management plans have been developed for federal and state agencies with recovery populations. On private lands, more than 40 percent of the known red-cockaded woodpeckers are benefiting from management approved by the Service through Memorandum of Agreements, Safe Harbor Agreements, and Habitat Conservation Plans.” Great news on the endangered species front!
Want to learn how endangered species management is REALLY done, rather than all of the inflammatory information you might have seen in the news? Check out this video on a red-cockaded woodpecker protection program in Louisiana:
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2012. All About Birds website. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-cockaded_Woodpecker/id. Accessed 10/19/2012.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2012. Red-cockaded woodpecker recovery website. http://www.fws.gov/rcwrecovery/. Accessed 10/19/2012.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2012. Species Profile. http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=B04F. Accessed 10/19/2012.