Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Dryobates borealis
Population size
15-30 thou
Life Span
12-16 yrs
WEIGHT
40-56 g
LENGTH
18-23 cm
WINGSPAN
34-41 cm

Red-cockaded woodpeckers are rare forest birds native to the southeastern United States. Their back is barred with black and white horizontal stripes. The most distinguishing feature of these woodpeckers is a black cap and nape that encircle large white cheek patches. Rarely visible, except perhaps during the breeding season and periods of territorial defense, the males have a small red streak on each side of their black cap called a 'cockade', hence their name.

Di

Diurnal

Cr

Crepuscular

Ca

Carnivore

In

Insectivores

Fr

Frugivore

Gr

Granivore

He

Herbivore

Om

Omnivore

Ve

Vermivorous

Ar

Arboreal

Al

Altricial

No

Nomadic

Te

Territorial

Te

Terrestrial

Ov

Oviparous

Mo

Monogamy

So

Social

Co

Colonial

No

Not a migrant

R

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Continents
Countries
Biogeographical realms

Historically, Red-cockaded woodpeckers' range extended in the southeastern United States from Florida to New Jersey and Maryland, as far west as eastern Texas and Oklahoma, and inland to Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Today they occur from Florida to Virginia and west to southeast Oklahoma and eastern Texas. Red-cockaded woodpeckers make their home in fire-dependent pine forests. Longleaf pines are most commonly preferred, but other species of southern pine are also acceptable.

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Red-cockaded woodpeckers are non-migratory territorial birds. They live in family groups which include a breeding pair, their offspring, and helpers. They spend the day foraging in groups and roost at night alone, each family member in its own cavity. Red-cockaded woodpeckers prefer to forage on pines, with a strong preference for large trees, though they will occasionally forage on hardwoods and even on corn earworms in cornfields. In order to reach food, they will walk, hop, and climb between the tree branches. When not feeding Red-cockaded woodpeckers spend their time preening, stretching, bathing, and sunbathing.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Red-cockaded woodpeckers are carnivores (insectivores). They feed mainly on ants, beetles, cockroaches, caterpillars, wood-boring insects, and spiders, and occasionally fruit and berries.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
April-June
INCUBATION PERIOD
10-13 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
4 to 6 months
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
3-4 eggs

Red-cockaded woodpeckers are monogamous and frequently have the same mate for several years. They are cooperative breeders; there is only one pair of breeding birds within each group, and they normally only raise a single brood each year. The other group members, called helpers, usually males from the previous breeding season, help incubate the eggs and raise the young. The nesting season of these birds runs from April to June. The breeding female lays 3 to 4 eggs in the breeding male's roost cavity. Group members incubate the small white eggs for 10-13 days. Once hatched, the chicks remain in the nest cavity for about 26-29 days. Upon fledging, the young often remain with the parents, forming groups of up to nine or more members, but more typically three to four members. Juvenile females generally leave the group before the next breeding season, in search of solitary male groups.

Population

Population threats

The main threat to Red-cockaded woodpeckers is the loss of their native habitat through fragmentation. When a larger cluster of birds gets split up, it is difficult for the young to find mates and eventually becomes an issue regarding species dispersal. While dispersing in search of new places to settle, Red-cockaded woodpeckers often face habitats of competing other woodpecker species.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Red-cockaded woodpecker population size is around 10,000-19,999 mature individuals, assumed to be equivalent to 15,000-30,000 individuals in total. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Red-cockaded woodpeckers play a vital role in the intricate web of life of the southern pine forests. A number of other birds and small mammals use the cavities excavated by Red-cockaded woodpeckers, such as chickadees, bluebirds, titmice, and several other woodpecker species, including the Downy, Hairy, and Red-bellied woodpeckers. Larger woodpeckers such as Northern flicker, Red-bellied, or Pileated woodpecker may take over a Red-cockaded woodpecker cavity, sometimes enlarging the hole enough to allow Eastern screech owls, Wood ducks, and even raccoons to move in later. Flying squirrels, several species of reptiles and amphibians, and insects, primarily bees and wasps, also will use Red-cockaded woodpecker cavities.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Red-cockaded woodpeckers prefer to drink fresh water collected in leaves, needles, or cavities on branches.
  • While other woodpeckers bore out cavities in dead trees where the wood is rotten and soft, Red-cockaded woodpeckers are the only ones that excavate cavities exclusively in living pine trees.
  • Red-cockaded woodpeckers use many different calls in their communication. Some of them include a 'churt' - their typical call, a 'sklit' - an excited call, a short rattle note to express disturbance, also a rattle call, scolding note, and a call upon returning to the nest.
  • A family of Red-cockaded woodpeckers excavates several cavities within their territory; it takes generally over 1 to 3 years to completely dig out a cavity.
  • When there is no available cavity, Red-cockaded woodpeckers may sleep under a tree limb or in another protected site.

References

1. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-cockaded_woodpecker
2. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22681158/119170967

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