Over a 13-year period we examined the mortality of cavity trees (n = 453) used by red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) on national forests in eastern Texas. Bark beetles (53%), wind snap (30%), and fire (7%) were the major causes of cavity tree mortality. Bark beetles were the major cause of mortality in loblolly (Pinus taeda) and shortleaf (P. echinata) pines, whereas fire was the major cause in longleaf pines (P. palustris). Cavity trees on the Angelina National Forest (NF) were dying at a higher rate than new, complete cavities were being excavated. Cavity enlargement by pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) on the Angelina NF was substantial, with 20% (49/ 249) of the cavity trees being enlarged over 7 years. To reduce cavity tree mortality, site disturbances in cluster areas (e.g., midstory control, prescribed burning, thinning) should be minimized during years when southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) populations are elevated. Careful planning of timber cutting to avoid funneling wind into cluster areas might reduce wind damage to cavity trees.
Conner, Richard N.; Rudolph, D. Craig; Kulhavy, David; and Snow, Ann, "Causes of Mortality of Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Cavity Trees" (1991). Faculty Publications. 383.