Investigation of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in Virginia: Year 2018 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 2018 breeding season, Piney Grove Preserve supported 15 potential breeding groups (including one in the Big Woods) that produced 25 fledglings. All groups made breeding attempts except for cluster 18 and a new cluster in the Big Woods. Only two of the remaining clusters failed to produce fledglings. The population as a whole had a reproductive rate of 1.7±0.33 (mean±SE) young/breeding group. The 13 groups that made breeding attempts had a success rate of 85% (11 of 13). Fledging rate for the11 productive pairs was 2.3±0.27. Of the 46 eggs followed in 2018, 21 (45.7%) hatched, 21 (45.7%) survived to banding age, and 20 (43.5%) fledged. Birds that fledged included 12 females, 10 males and 1 bird where gender remains unknown. Eleven 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 8 November. During the calendar year of 2018, 91 individual red-cockaded woodpeckers were identified within Piney Grove preserve including 66 birds that were hatched at Piney Grove during previous years and 25 nestlings that fledged during the 2018 breeding season. Thirty-six birds (40%) were in their fourth year or more and six birds (7%) were at least in their tenth year. Two birds were fourteen years old (fifteenth calendar year). Moving into the breeding season there were 65 birds were identified within Piney Grove Preserve distributed among 14 clusters. This is the highest number of adults that Piney Grove has ever carried into the breeding season. The number of birds per cluster varied from two to nine with a mean of 4.5+0.53 (mean+SE). Seventy-three birds were detected during the 2018 winter survey. This represents a 7% increase over the winter of 2017 and a 35% increase over the winter of 2016. Birds present include 12 of the 25 birds fledged in 2017 and 61 adult birds hatched in previous years. Group size in winter ranged from two to eight birds and averaged 4.9+0.52 (mean±SE) birds per group.