12 red-cockaded woodpeckers have a new home
Friday, October 29, 2010
Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525; Gabriella B. Ferraro, 772-215-9459
It took all night, but
the red-cockaded woodpecker experts were able to accomplish their
The catch teams captured 12 of the rare birds and
moved them to their new home, according to Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists.
Six pairs of red-cockaded woodpeckers from the
Citrus Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Citrus and Hernando
counties are now residing in the J.W. Corbett WMA in Palm Beach and
"This was the first time Citrus had donated this
many birds, and because of the dedicated work of multiple agencies,
it was a great success," said Marsha Ward, FWC biologist in South
This relocation was part of the Southern Range
Translocation Cooperative program. The goal of this program is to
boost smaller, isolated populations or reintroduce populations by
relocating red-cockaded woodpeckers from larger, sustainable donor
"This is the result of a decade of monitoring,
banding, habitat management and teamwork," said Nancy Dwyer, FWC
biologist. "The goal of making Citrus WMA a red-cockaded woodpecker
donor site has been achieved."
Citrus WMA's endangered woodpeckers had 53
successful nests this year. The Florida Division of Forestry and
FWC staff jointly manage the population.
Prior to the relocation, biologists at Citrus WMA
tracked down the birds they wanted to move. The day of the capture,
teams fanned out through the area to prepare for the birds' return
to their nests.
According to Travis Blunden, FWC biologist, "We had
10 teams (20 people) involved with the capture. One person would
act as the spotter and track the bird as it flew to its cavity
hole, and the other would wait in hiding with a net, ready to catch
the bird once it entered its roost."
Once in the net, team members checked the
red-cockaded woodpeckers' sex and leg bands, to make sure they had
trapped the correct birds. The Corbett crew took the birds to the
new nesting site.
"Even though staff worked tirelessly through the
night, they were glad to have a donor close enough so they did not
have to hold the birds an extra day in captivity," said Ward.
The red-cockaded woodpecker is a medium-sized bird
with distinctive white cheek patches and a black-and-white barred
back. Males have a tiny red patch or "cockade" behind the eye.
They are very rare because they require open stands of
The birds live in small family groups, composed of
one breeding pair and a helper or two. The extra birds usually are
males from previous breeding seasons; females rarely stay with
their parents. The helpers assist in raising the young, including
feeding them and defending them against predators and territorial
disputes. The entire family usually forages as a group, moving
together from tree to tree. They feed primarily on ants, beetles,
caterpillars, wood-boring insects, spiders and cockroaches, as well
as fruits and berries.
"The bird requires old-growth pines to nest in,
chipping out a cavity in the living tree. They don't use dead
trees for roost or nest cavities. Once logging became
commonplace, the population suffered," Dwyer said. "Red-cockaded
woodpeckers were given federal protection as an endangered species
in 1973. In Florida, the bird is listed as a species of
Almost 97 percent of red-cockaded woodpecker
habitat has been lost in the past 100 years, according to FWC
Florida hosts approximately 25 percent of the
nation's red-cockaded woodpecker population, with an estimated
1,100 active family groups. Most of Florida's populations are on
public lands and managed carefully.
On J.W. Corbett WMA, intensive land-management
practices - such as prescribed fire, exotic plant control and
mechanical vegetation removal - have been used. As of today,
the Corbett population has made great strides, partly due to the
success of previous translocations, and it now has 15 active
clusters with 12 potential breeding groups. In 2010, eight
groups had successful nests, producing a total of 12
"The red-cockaded woodpecker is on the road to
recovery," said Ward. "And although that road may be bumpy at
times, with continued efforts from the many dedicated biologists
working with this species, we hope to one day remove this endearing
bird from the endangered species list."