Red-cockaded Woodpecker

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Leuconotopicus borealis 

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is an endangered woodpecker species. It is seen in the old pine forests of the southeastern states. This woodpecker's habitat is in mature pine stands, where it makes its nest in live trees.

A program has been initiated, where woodpecker nesting boxes are carved into live pines, and the bark of the pines are coated in pine gum to prevent snakes and others from climbing up the trees to eat the adults and their young.

They are small woodpeckers with black and white striped back and white cheeks.

Males have a tiny, nearly invisible red streak (cockade) at the upper border of their cheeks.

They have short, straight bills.

They measure about 7.9 to 9.1 inches in length, with a wingspan of 14.2 inches and weighs about 42 to 52 grams.

The best-known call of this very vocal woodpecker is a raspy “sklit” it gives when disturbed.

Other calls include a “churt” (repeated every 2-4 seconds) when flying into a roosting and nesting area, and a rattle that ends with a drop-in pitch.

Foraging birds give a soft, melodious chortling call when close to each other.

Both males and females drum on tree trunks, although not often or loudly. While foraging they may produce a soft drumming sound, similar to the rattle of a rattlesnake, by vibrating their tongues on the tree surface.

Feeds heavily on insects, but also occasionally eats fruits, berries, and pine seeds.

Found most often in mature pine forest, with trees of sufficient age and size for nesting. Prefers longleaf pine forests with periodically burned and open understories, but will also use other types of pine forest.

Florida to Virginia and west to southeast Oklahoma and eastern Texas, representing about 1% of the woodpecker's original population.

Today it is estimated that there are about 5,000 groups of red-cockaded woodpeckers, or 12,500 birds, from Florida to Virginia and west to southeast Oklahoma and eastern Texas, representing about 1% of the woodpecker's original population. 

They have become locally extinct (extirpated) in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, and Tennessee.

They strongly prefer nesting in old, large pine trees that have been infected with "red heart disease", a fungus that results in a softer woody interior that is more easily excavated.

The female usually lays 3 to 4 shiny white eggs in the nesting cavity. Both the male and female help to incubate the eggs within 10 to 11 days.


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