endangered red-cockaded woodpecker
(RCW) is one prominent species
adversely affected by the disappearance of longleaf pine habitat
it is dependent on old growth pines for roosting and nesting.
is the only North American woodpecker which excavate cavities in
live pines, a process that can take several to 12+ years.
Fragmentation and fire suppression of longleaf pine forests have
resulted in habitat conditions conducive to more aggressive, cavity
dependent species that will usurp
RCW cavities and/or destroy RCW
southern flying squirrel (Glacomys volans),
red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus),
red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes
starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and eastern bluebird (Sialia
sialis) have all been known to displace RCWs.
RCWs live in
non-migratory, territorial family groups consisting of a breeding
pair and often one to several related male helpers. The
number of female helpers documented has increased slightly since
scientific studies first began here in 1979. Low quality or disjunct
territories are often occupied by solitary males, or abandoned
altogether. Depending on habitat type and quality, a group’s home
range can vary from 100 - 400 acres.
trees within territories defended by a group are termed clusters,
and each member of the group roosts in a separate cavity. Nesting
occurs in the breeding male’s cavity, which is typically the most
recently excavated and/or best quality cavity. Non-breeders within
groups delay dispersal to assist with reproduction and all group
members share in duties of incubation, brooding and feeding young.
This life history strategy is termed cooperative breeding and is
observed in relatively few species in temperate regions.
Cooperative breeding in RCWs is thought to have evolved in response
to a limitation of suitable cavities for roosting and nesting.
There is a
Primary Core Recovery Population (SANDHILLS
an Essential Support Population
designated for RCWs in the North Carolina
Sandhills (RCW Recovery Plan; 2nd Revision - USFWS 2003). The majority of RCW
groups within SANDHILLS EAST
occur on the federally managed Fort Bragg
in Hoke, Harnett, Moore, and Cumberland Counties, North Carolina.
SANDHILLS WEST is comprised chiefly of the Sandhills Game Land in Richmond
and Scotland Counties.
attained a population goal of 350 estimated potential breeding
groups (PBG) in 2005. This is the first RCW
population to achieve
“recovery” status, however, this does not imply that management and
monitoring of the species will cease. Research examining effects
of removal of Fort Bragg training restrictions on RCW
success will be initiated in 2008.
USFWS Clemson Field Office
USFWS NC Sandhills Office
Fort Bragg Endangered Species Branch