What is a red-cockaded woodpecker?
A red-cockaded woodpecker is black and white with horizontal
stripes. It has a black head with large white check patches. Males
have a small red streak on the sides of the head, which is rarely
visible except with a high magnification spotting scope.
Where are red-cockaded woodpeckers found?
In Florida, the largest populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers
occur in the Apalachicola National Forest and Eglin Air Force Base,
but smaller populations can be found throughout a large portion of
the state. Florida's red-cockaded woodpecker population represents
25 percent of the nation's population. Historically, red-cockaded
woodpeckers were found throughout the southeastern United States
from Florida to New Jersey and Maryland, as far west as eastern
Texas, Oklahoma, to Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee. They no
longer occur in New Jersey, Maryland, Tennessee or Missouri.
Approximately how many red-cockaded woodpeckers are in
Florida's population of red-cockaded woodpeckers is estimated at
1,100 nesting pairs.
When was the RCW placed on Florida's imperiled species
The RCW was listed as either threatened or endangered by Florida's
wildlife agency from 1974 through 2003. In 2003, the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission reclassified the RCW as a
"species of special concern," meaning it still is at high risk of
extinction. In 2010, the Commission approved new rules for listing
imperiled species and the RCW was listed as federally endangered in
When was the red-cockaded woodpecker placed on the
federal Endangered Species List?
October 13, 1970.
Why is the red-cockaded woodpecker
Red-cockaded woodpeckers have become endangered due to population
declines, largely brought about by habitat destruction attributed
to logging, development and aggressive control of forest fires,
which historically maintained the open pinelands that RCWs require.
These actions have wiped out most of the South's long leaf pine
forests and put a stop to regular burning necessary to maintain
most healthy pines. Almost 97 percent of the red-cockaded
woodpecker habitat has been lost in the past 100 years.
Why are pine forests important to red-cockaded
Red-cockaded woodpeckers make their nests in cavities they create
in mature pine trees. They choose mature trees because older
pinewood is often soft, easily excavated, and has a smaller layer
of sapwood. Red-cockaded woodpeckers are the only southeastern bird
that excavates cavities in living pines.
What does a red-cockaded woodpecker eat?
Woodpeckers feed primarily on ants, beetles, caterpillars,
wood-boring insects, spiders, cockroaches and occasionally fruit
What is the red-cockaded woodpecker's
Red-cockaded woodpeckers are typically found in open, park-like
pine forests maintained by fire. They require at least 75 acres for
nesting and feeding.
How do private landowners help in the recovery of the
red-cockaded woodpeckers in Florida?
Private landowners play a major role in the recovery of the
species because private lands provide habitat to as much as 10
percent of Florida's birds. Private lands also border public lands
that contain RCWs.
Land management techniques to help in the red-cockaded
woodpecker recovery include:
- Frequent prescribed burning on a 1-to 3-year rotation to
- Roller chopping to control dense thickets of saw palmettos and
- Thinning dense timber stands to a "plantation" look.
Besides private landowners, what is Florida doing for
Florida has joined forces with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
and our neighboring states in forming partnerships with private
landowners and creating Safe Harbor agreements to protect the
federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission carefully
manages the red-cockaded woodpecker on 6.5 million acres of
wildlife management areas.