Investigation of red-cockaded woodpeckers in Virginia: 2014 report
Red-cockaded woodpecker recovery at the Nature Conservancy’s Piney Grove Preserve has been a monumental achievement. Over the past 11 years, aspects of monitoring and management has worked together to more than triple the number of breeding groups from a modern low of 3 in 2000 to the 14 groups breeding there now. The current level of success has culminated from more than a decade long path of habitat management, cavity tree management, woodpecker population monitoring and translocation. It has been through the intelligent decision making and skill in the field from all partners involved in Red-cockaded Woodpecker management in Virginia that has allowed extraordinary measures of success such as population growth, an increase in the number of pairs breeding, and high annual numbers of young produced. This past year marked another important leap forward in the overall success of the Piney Grove Preserve with the gaining of 3 additional breeding pairs. The new breeding pairs were a result of the pioneering of one pair of birds into a naturally excavated site, two pairs breeding in previously unoccupied artificial recruitment clusters, and one intra-cluster budding event where two pairs of birds produced young within the same cluster. It is the first time that a breeding cluster has been established from a voluntary pioneering event by Red-cockaded Woodpeckers without the help of an artificial recruitment clusters in Virginia since the 1980s. A total of 83 Red-cockaded Woodpeckers were identified within the Piney Grove Preserve in 2014. This included 60 birds that were hatched at Piney Grove from previous years and 23 fledglings produced during the 2014 breeding season. There were 56 birds distributed into 13 breeding clusters and one cluster comprised only of males during the breeding season. The total number of adult birds detected in the breeding season set a new high mark by beating the previous year number of 52 birds. One long-term, historic cluster did not breed this year due to loss of females between winter and spring and another breeding cluster failed during the nestling phase and did not renest. In winter, there were 66 birds roosting in 14 different clusters. This includes 15 of the 23 birds fledged in 2014 and 52 adult birds hatched in previous years. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker population continues to set high marks at Piney Grove Preserve for total breeding groups, numbers of individuals, and number of young produced annually. This collective result was only made possible from habitat improvements implemented over time. We have witnessed the population transform from one that required augmentation with translocated individuals to promote growth just a decade ago to a population that is positively maintaining itself through internal production and recruitment.