The bird’s population has grown considerably at the site since three were identified there as part of a survey conducted in 1985.
“The banding operation carried out by the U.S. Forest Service-Savannah River (USFS-SR) really is emblematic of what our mission at Environmental Management is all about: restoring our sites in a way in which they can serve new purposes, or, in this case, their original purpose, by creating a viable home for species challenged by development,” DOE-Savannah River (DOE-SR) Manager Mike Budney said. “Plus, getting a chance to hold a baby bird that hasn’t even opened its eyes is a pretty cool way to spend the day.”
In 1986, a collaborative effort between the USFS-SR and DOE-SR to help reestablish the federally protected woodpecker led to the development of a red-cockaded woodpecker recovery management plan. Under that plan, more than 65,000 acres of land at SRS is set aside as habitat for the species.
To overcome the lack of suitable trees with cavities, or holes, for nesting on SRS, artificial cavity inserts developed by the U.S. Forest Service are installed in living pine trees to supplement the bird's effort to construct natural cavities.
Groups of tree cavities close to one another are called clusters. When a cluster houses a breeding male and female, it’s called a potential breeding group. These groups often contain juvenile males that share responsibility for caring and feeding young nestlings.
When red-cockaded woodpecker nestlings are about seven to 10 days old, they are extracted from a cavity to be banded. Five bands are placed on the legs of each nestling. Four colored bands and one aluminum U.S. Fish and Wildlife band are uniquely arranged to identify each individual bird.
Banding is an important management tool that allows wildlife biologists to accurately track the range of the woodpecker across SRS. This information can be used to help develop future land management and habitat improvement actions such as prescribed fire and timber operations in that specific area.
Forest Service habitat management actions to support the red-cockaded woodpecker population include forest thinning, removing midstory hardwoods within a 50-foot radius of cavity trees, the application of prescribed fire once every three to four years and selecting replacement and recruitment stands for all active clusters based on red-cockaded woodpecker population expansion goals.
These habitat management actions have been instrumental to the success of the red-cockaded woodpecker population at SRS. In addition, successful translocation has helped the genetic diversity while also increasing the overall population of this species at SRS. The site currently hosts approximately 145 potential breeding groups with 617 individuals.
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