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Al and I have monitored Red-cockaded Woodpeckers in the Croom Tract of the
Withlacoochee State Forest since 1989. During this time we have seen chicks
fledge and RCWs die, new mates pair up and divorces occur, and even a
"kidnapping." (A chick that left the nest a day later than his siblings
apparently wandered the wrong direction, and was fed by another RCW pair
that had lost their nest that year. He followed them to their cluster, and
remains there to this day, helping them raise the next generations.)

 

When we began working in Croom, there were only nine known RCWs, and three
of these were single males hanging on to their own territories, with no
available single females. The first year, three females were translocated
from Apalachicola National Forest, and the following spring each of the new
pairs nested.

 

That began the process of increasing the RCW population in Croom. Under the
capable guidance of Forestry Ecology Unit Supervisor Vince Morris, staff
from Florida Forestry Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission worked to make this happen.

 

1. They began prescribed burns during the growing season on a
three-year-rotation cycle. (These burns also were of benefit to Bachman's
Sparrows, whose number have greatly increased.) 

2. They began placing inserts in live pine trees to supplement the cavities
that RCWs were able to build themselves, since it takes up to five years for
a RCW-made cavity to be completed.

3. They continued to translocate RCWs from healthy RCW populations,
including more birds from Apalachicola National Forest, as well as from Ft.
Stewart (Georgia) and Citrus Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest. A new
male and new female from the donor population would be placed together in a
cluster, but the birds would usually make their own choices of mates and
territories, as they mixed and matched with other RCWs in Croom.  

 

This summer we reached a highpoint when 30 RCW pairs nested, and 49 chicks
fledged. This meets the criteria for RCWs to be officially considered
"recovered" in Croom! There are over 135 RCWs in Croom now. 

 

The next goal will be to continue to increase the population. When there are
50 nesting pairs, Croom can become a donor, translocating RCWs from Croom to
other areas where the population needs to grow.

 

Bev Hansen

Spring Hill, FL

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