• Natural Wonders: Red Cockaded Woodpeckers

    Red is a preferred color among Florida’s Adventure Coast woodpeckers. Some, like the Pileated, Red Headed, Red Bellied, Hairy and Downy species are fairly common.

    Thanks mainly to loss of Longleaf pine forest habitat, sightings of the once commoned cockaded woodpecker are rare. One of the first birds to be protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, it is responding to organized recovery efforts by the U.S Fish and WildlifeService and other agencies.

    One of Florida’s largest populations of red cockaded woodpeckers – approximately 60 nesting sights – is in the Croom and Citrus tracts of the Withlacoochee State Forest. Here are some fun facts about these birds and tips for spotting them.

    About red cockaded woodpeckers
    1 – Cockade means a decoration worn on a hat, especially as part of a uniform, to show rank or status
    2 – Although red is in the name, it is only on males and is very small; a red band on both sides of its black cap
    3 – They do not sing, chirp or otherwise vocalize; their pecking on hollow trees is a means of communication
    4 – Their feet each have two toes facing front and two facing back which, with their stiff central tail feathers, help them to grip and brace trees to climb vertically
    5 – When feeding, building nests and communicating, red cockaded woodpeckers can peck up to 20 times per second or 9,000 to 12,000 pecks per day!

    Spot them
    1 – The best time to see them is in the early morning, just after sunrise and late afternoon
    2 – Look for nest activity around thirty feet above the ground in trees at least a foot in diameter
    3 – Pine trees home to red cockaded woodpeckers are easy to spot, especially in bright sunshine, because they appear painted white by the resin that flows down the trunk. This is because the bird makes many small holes to create what are called resin wells.

    Learn more about red cockaded woodpeckers.

     

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