Investigation of red-cockaded woodpeckers in Virginia: 2013 report
Red-cockaded woodpecker recovery at the Nature Conservancy’s Piney Grove Preserve has been a monumental achievement. Over the past 10 years, monitoring and management has worked together to more than tripled the number of breeding groups from a modern low of 3 in 2000 to the 10 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 the through intelligent decision making and skill in the field from all partners involved in Red-cockaded Woodpecker management in Virginia that has allowed success has come so efficiently. This was the second consecutive year that 10 breeding groups fledged birds. These groups produced a total of 23 fledglings in 2013 following up only slightly behind the 26 young fledged in 2012. Over recent years, the reproductive output of the entire Piney Grove population has increased from growth in the number of breeding groups as well as a greater average number young being fledged per nest. A total of 76 Red-cockaded Woodpeckers were identified within the Piney Grove Preserve in 2013. This includes 53 adult birds and the 23 birds that fledged from the 2013 nests. There were 53 adult woodpeckers distributed into 10 groups when going into the breeding season. During the winter survey a total of 57 birds were detected that included 15 of the 23 birds fledged this year. There was movement of birds into two new cluster-sites between summer and winter. One of these sites represents the first natural pioneering event at the Preserve and possibly the only known such event in Virginia for over 25 years. This new site was established by excavation of a natural cavity into a tree located away from other clusters. The cavity has been monitored over the past year through construction but roosting by a male was only discovered during the 2013 winter. This male is joined by a female bird that emanates from an unknown location during forgaing activities. Another new site is an artificial recruitment cluster (C-12) that was occupied by a lone female bird in winter and was being joined by a male from a nearby occupied cluster (C-1). This site was used for a short-term spell by birds in one past winter but vacated by the next spring. 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 for growth just a decade ago to a population that is positively maintaining itself through internal production and recruitment.