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 single remaining population within the Piney Grove Preserve has responded to intensive management and is now approaching capacity but continues to be at risk to stochastic events such as hurricanes, tornadoes and disease. To offset this risk a three-phase conservation plan was developed that includes the establishment of additional breeding locations. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was identified as a high priority site for the establishment of a second population due to its capacity for habitat management and the similarity of habitat to non-typical red-cockaded woodpecker sites in nearby coastal North Carolina. In an effort to establish a population within the swamp, habitat management was initiated several years ago and translocation of birds into established recruitment clusters began in 2015. During the 2017 breeding season, the first breeding attempts were recorded and the first young were produced within the Great Dismal Swamp, NWR. By May the site supported two potential breeding groups. Both of these groups produced three-egg clutches. Three of the six eggs hatched and two of the three young fledged successfully resulting in a reproductive rate of 1±1.0 (mean±SE) young/breeding group. Both birds were females and both were still present within the site in December of 2017. During the calendar year of 2017, 17 individual red-cockaded woodpeckers were identified within the Great Dismal Swamp, NWR including three birds from the 2015 translocation cohort, two birds from the 2016 translocation cohort, ten birds from the 2017 translocation cohort and two birds produced within the refuge during the 2017 breeding season. Three birds were lost between the 2016 winter survey and the 2017 spring survey leaving only five birds moving into the breeding season. Two translocation events were executed during the fall of 2017 including a move of eight birds (4 females and 4 males) from Carolina Sandhills, NWR on 5 October and two birds (1 female and 1 male) from Piney Grove Preserve on 19 October. Eleven birds were detected during the 2017 winter survey. This compares to seven in 2015 and eight in 2016. A total of 62 woodpecker cavities had been created within the Great Dismal Swamp, NWR by the end of 2017. Three of these cavity trees were lost in October of 2016 during Hurricane Matthew. An additional six cavity trees were lost in March of 2017 during high-wind events. All of the trees lost in 2017 were snapped off at the insert location including two that were being used as roost trees. To compensate for losses, nine artificial cavities were installed during the late summer of 2017. The first natural cavity was discovered in a pond pine in December of 2017 (cluster S2-2). The primary objective of this ongoing project is to establish a breeding population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers within the Great Dismal Swamp, NWR. A secondary objective is to collect information relevant to the continued management of birds and their habitat in Virginia. Specific objectives include: 1) To determine the number and identification of all birds resident within the Great Dismal Swamp, NWR during the 2017 calendar year. 2) To monitor breeding activity in order to document productivity and allow for the unique banding of all individuals within the population. 3) To determine fledging success for all breeding attempts. 4) To translocate birds from donor sites to the Great Dismal Swamp, NWR. 5) To monitor cavity tree and artificial cavity condition.
Watts, B. D.; Paxton, B J.; Smith, F M.; and Wright, J, "Investigation of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers within the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge: 2017 report" (2018). CCB Technical Reports. 296.