Investigation of red-cockaded woodpeckers in Virginia: 2011 report
Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at Piney Grove set new high marks for population size and breeding productivity in 2011. Nine breeding attempts were documented during the 2011 season. This is the highest number attempted since Piney Grove has been monitored. This was also the first year breeding occurred at Clusters 6 and 15. A breeding attempt in Cluster 7 failed after one egg was laid in the nest cavity then disappeared. No second attempt was initiated. A combined total of 25 chicks survived to fledge from the 8 successful nests. The inaugural breeding event at Cluster 15 might be the first example of “budding” at Piney Grove. Budding is typically defined as the splitting of two clans into separate breeding clusters where no additional space is used. Budding is considered different from “pioneering” where birds move into a new space to initiate a new breeding cluster. Prior to this season, the birds at Cluster 15 regularly foraged and even assisted with breeding duties at Cluster 8. Most of the birds that occupied Cluster 15 prior to 2011 were offspring from Cluster 8. However, now Clusters 8 and 15 now behave individually and birds no longer forage together. A total of 70 Red-cockaded Woodpeckers were identified within Piney Grove preserve in 2011 (Table 1). This included 42 birds that were hatched at Piney Grove from previous years, 26 fledglings produced during the 2010 breeding season, 2 birds translocated to Piney Grove in previous years. Forty-four adult birds were detected within the Piney Grove Preserve leading into the breeding season of 2011 (Table 1). This is the highest spring total since monitoring began at the Preserve, beating the high mark in spring of 2010 by 10 more birds and almost triple the number counted in 2002 when only 16 birds were present. Forty-seven birds were detected during the winter survey. This includes 35 birds hatched at Piney Grove before 2011 and 12 of the 25 birds fledged this summer. This is a much lower retention rate of fledgling birds making it to the winter survey compared to other years. It appears as the last two remaining birds that were translocated from the Carolina Sandhills are now gone from the population. The last two remaining birds were breeding males in Cluster 1 and 7. Both birds attempted breeding this past summer but the male at Cluster 7 disappeared after one egg was laid and the nest subsequently failed. Neither were detected during the winter survey. In the winter assessment, birds were roosting in 13 different cluster areas including although two of these areas forage with nearby clusters thereby reducing the number of active clans to eleven.