Red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW)

In North Carolina, the red-cockaded woodpecker is limited mostly to the longleaf pine belts of the Sandhills region and the lower Coastal Plain.  It is typically found in fire-maintained pine or pine-hardwood forests that include mature trees (60 years and older) that it uses to excavate cavities for roosting and nesting.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker (North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission)
Despite their name, Red-cockaded woodpeckers are mostly black and white with a large, bright white cheek patch and a bold black stripe on the lower border of the check. The common name came into use during the early 1800’s when ‘cockade’ was regularly used to refer to a ribbon or other ornament worn on a hat.

North Carolina Red-cockaded Woodpecker Safe Harbor Program (North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission)
This program was developed to address both the conservation needs of the RCW in the State of North Carolina and the concerns of North Carolina’s non-federal property owners. Any non-federal property owner with land that currently is, or that has the potential to be, an upland pine environment, and who is willing to provide a net conservation benefit to Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCWs) may enroll.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker Regulatory Update and Q&A (0n-demand webinar)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed to change the status of the red-cockaded woodpecker from “endangered” to “threatened.” The Service also proposed a “4(d) rule” – new regulations that will govern how landowners can manage their forests when this species is present. These proposals are open to public comment in the Federal Register until December 7, 2020.

In this webinar, Dr. Lauren Ward, General Counsel & Director of Regulatory Affairs at Forest Landowners Association will provide an overview of the USFWS proposal, an analysis of how it affects forest landowners, a summary of the key issues that FLA is encouraging comments to the Federal Register about as well as a recorded Q&A.

RCW Ecology (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
The red-cockaded woodpecker plays a vital role in the intricate web of life of the southern pine forests. Red-cockaded woodpeckers are ‘primary’ cavity nesters, meaning they are responsible for the construction of cavities. In the southern pine ecosystem there are many ‘secondary’ cavity users that benefit from the RCWs work. RCWs are considered a ‘keystone’ species because use of their cavities by these animals contributes to the species richness of the pine forest.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker Fact Sheet (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Red-cockaded woodpeckers live in mature pine forests – specifically those with longleaf pines averaging 80 to 120 years old and loblolly pines averaging 70 to 100 years old. From the late 1800s to the mid 1900s red-cockaded woodpeckers declined rapidly as their mature pine forest habitat was altered for a variety of uses, primarily timber harvest and agriculture.

All About Birds – Red-cockaded Woodpecker Overview  (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
The Red-cockaded Woodpecker roosts and nests only in live pines, usually ones infected with red heart fungus. The disease softens the wood and makes cavity excavation easier. The birds also peck holes in the bark around the nest entrance, causing the tree to leak pitch that helps keep tree climbing snakes away.

RCW Population Status and Biology (Sandhills Ecological Institute)
Recent gains in RCW populations are attributed to intensive management of nesting and foraging habitat by wildlife biologists and land managers.  Widespread use of prescribed fire, while playing a critical role in maintaining healthy and diverse longleaf pine ecosystems, has undeniably aided in RCW population recovery.

RCW Information for Private Landowners (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service North Carolina Sandhills Suboffice)
Private landowners have different responsibilities than do public land managers for endangered species conservation under Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act. Therefore, private landowners are strongly encouraged to follow general guidelines for red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) management in order to avoid inadvertent destruction of pine habitat supporting red-cockaded woodpeckers and any potential violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Birds of North Carolina – Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Carolina Bird Cub)
Few birds in the state, and in the Southeast, have declined as strongly over the past 50 or more years as has the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. Because it has been Federally listed as Endangered since 1970 (?), it has been extensively studied, more so than most other North American birds.