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Populations of the red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) have experienced massive declines since European colonization of North America. This is due to extensive habitat loss and alteration. Logging of old-growth pine forests and alteration of the fire regime throughout the historic range of the species were the primary causes of population decline. Listing of the red-cockaded woodpecker under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended, and increased emphasis on management of non-game species have resulted in efforts to recover remnant populations of the red-cockaded woodpecker in many parts of its historic range. Due to extensive research and adaptive management initiatives much is now known about the elements required for both short- and long-term management of viable populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers. A short-term strategy is crucial because currently available habitat, in nearly all populations, is poor in 1 or more critical respects. Consequently, almost all populations require immediate attention in the short term, to insure suitable midstory and understory conditions, adequate availability of suitable cavities, and restoration of demographic viability through improvements in number and distribution of breeding groups. Management techniques including artificial cavities, cavity entrance restrictors, translocation of birds, prescribed fire, and mechanical and chemical control of woody vegetation are available to achieve these needs. In the long term, cost-effective management of red-cockaded woodpecker populations requires a timber management program and prescribed fire regime that will produce and maintain the stand structure characteristic of high quality nesting and foraging habitat, so that additional intensive management specific to the woodpeckers is no longer necessary. Timber management that achieves this goal and still allows substantial timber harvest is feasible. The implementation of a red-cockaded woodpecker management strategy, as outlined above, represents appropriate ecosystem management in the fire-maintained pine ecosystems of the southeastern United States and will ultimately benefit a great number of additional species of plants and animals adapted to this ecosystem.


Rudolph, D. Craig; Conner, Richard N.; Walters, Jeffrey R. Red-cockaded woodpecker recovery: An integrated strategy. In: Red-cockaded woodpecker: Road to recovery. Blaine, WA: Hancock House Publishers, 2004. 70-76.

Written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, therefore in the public domain



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