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Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Picoides borealis ORDER: PICIFORMES FAMILY: PICIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable

One of the few bird species endemic to the United States, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a bird of mature southern pine forests. Its preference for longleaf pine and the destruction of that habitat have resulted in the woodpecker becoming an endangered species.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
7.9–9.1 in
20–23 cm
Wingspan
14.2 in
36 cm
Weight
1.5–1.8 oz
42–52 g
Other Names
  • Pic à face blanche (French)
  • Carpintero cara blanco (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Red-cockaded Woodpecker nests only in live pines. But, it often selects ones that are infected with the red heart fungus. The fungus softens the wood and allows the woodpecker to dig out a cavity. The live pine tree then "bleeds" pitch around the nest hole. The heavy flow of gum helps keep tree-climbing snakes away from the nest.
  • A family of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers excavates a number of cavities within their territory. It may take two years or more to completely dig out one cavity. The breeding male roosts in the best cavity, usually the one most recently created and with the heaviest sap flow. The eggs are laid in this cavity, and the male incubates them at night.
  • The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a cooperative breeder, and lives in small family groups composed of one breeding pair and several helpers. The extra birds usually are sons from previous breeding seasons; daughters only rarely stay with their parents. The helpers assist in raising young, including incubation, brooding, and feeding. The entire family usually forages as a group, moving together from tree to tree.
  • A cockade is a ribbon or ornament worn on a hat. The "cockade" of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker is the tiny red line on the side of the head of the male. It may be hidden and is very difficult to see in the field.

Habitat


Open Woodland

Open pine forest maintained by frequent fires, especially longleaf pine forests.

Food


Insects

Insects and arthropods, some fruit and seeds.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
2–5 eggs
Egg Description
Shiny white.
Condition at Hatching
Naked and helpless.
Nest Description

Nest in cavity in tree; unlined.

Nest Placement

Cavity

Behavior


Bark Forager

Scales loose bark from pines to find insects underneath. Also probes crevices and excavates in rotting wood.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Vulnerable

Its extreme habitat specificity and loss of breeding habitat caused large population declines and the extinction of numerous colonies in the 20th century. It was listed as a Federal Endangered Species

Credits

  • Jackson, J. A. 1994. Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis). In The Birds of North America, No. 85 (A. Poole, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Range Map Help

Red-cockaded Woodpecker Range Map
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