Investigation of red-cockaded woodpeckers in Virginia: 2017 report
The Virginia population of red-cockaded woodpeckers is the northernmost throughout the species range and has been in eminent danger of extinction for more than 30 years. The Piney Grove Preserve represents a nucleus for recovery in the state and the focus of a multi-organizational partnership designed to increase the population to a sustainable level. The partnership has executed a program of aggressive habitat management, cavity-tree management and woodpecker population monitoring and management that has resulted in a quadrupling of the breeding population since the early 2000s. During the 2017 breeding season, Piney Grove Preserve supported 13 potential breeding groups that produced 25 fledglings. All groups made breeding attempts except for cluster 17. Only one of the remaining 12 clusters failed to produce fledglings. A viable pair was not present and no breeding attempt was made in cluster 18 for the first time since 2013. The population as a whole had a reproductive rate of 2.1±0.29 (mean±SE). The 12 groups that made breeding attempts had a success rate of 92% (11 of 12). Fledging rate for the11 productive pairs was 2.3±0.24. Of the 39 eggs followed in 2017, 21 (53.8%) hatched, 21 (53.8%) survived to banding age, and 21 (53.8%) fledged. Birds that fledged included 16 females and 9 males. Fourteen of these birds were retained and detected during the winter count and two (male and female, hatching-year birds) were translocated to Great Dismal Swamp, NWR on 20 October. During the calendar year of 2017, 84 individual red-cockaded woodpeckers were identified within Piney Grove preserve. This included 59 birds that were hatched at Piney Grove during previous years and 25 nestlings that fledged during the 2017 breeding season. Forty birds (47%) were in their fourth year or more and seven birds (8.3%) were at least in their tenth year. Two birds were thirteen years old. Moving into the breeding season there were 53 birds identified within Piney Grove Preserve distributed among 14 clusters. This was the lowest number of adults that Piney Grove has carried into the breeding season since 2013. The number of birds per cluster varied from one to eight with a mean of 3.8+0.46 (mean+SE). Sixty-nine birds were detected during the 2017 winter survey. This represents a 26% increase (69 vs 54) from the winter of 2016. Birds present include 14 of the 25 birds fledged in 2017 and 55 adult birds hatched in previous years. Group size in winter ranged from three to nine birds and averaged 4.9+0.47 (mean±SE) birds per group.