‘Endangered’ red-cockaded woodpecker making comeback

Corridor between Camp Blanding, Ocala provides perfect ecosystem for little bird

By Nick Blank Staff Writer
Posted 7/17/19

CAMP BLANDING – The arrival of a red-cockaded woodpecker from Osceola National Forest last month was met with aplomb from forest and conservation officials.

The woodpecker, listed as …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

‘Endangered’ red-cockaded woodpecker making comeback

Corridor between Camp Blanding, Ocala provides perfect ecosystem for little bird

Posted

CAMP BLANDING – The arrival of a red-cockaded woodpecker from Osceola National Forest last month was met with aplomb from forest and conservation officials.

The woodpecker, listed as “endangered” by the National Wildlife Federation, has seen its habitat dwindle the past few decades in Florida. Woodpeckers rely on longleaf pine at Ocala National Forest, Osceola National Forest and Camp Blanding, the few ecosystems that can support it.

Workers at Osceola and Camp Blanding band their birds. Camp Blanding biologist Cynthia Balboni spotted the woodpecker and noticed it didn’t have a local tag.

“I knew something was up because the bands weren’t anything in the color scheme we would do. It was pretty fascinating. We were psyched up about it,” Balboni said. “The fact that it’s even here is a big statement about the quality of the habitat.”

Balboni figured the number of woodpecker clusters at Camp Blanding increased from 12 or 13 in the 1980s to 36.

Nests are checked in early April. With cameras placed on poles, Balboni looks for eggs and later woodpeckers between seven to 10 days old. The nests are checked once a week. When officials are in the field, they look for the banded birds, which are counted as “fledged,” and added to the population.

“It was something special to me as soon as I saw it,” Balboni said.

The Osceola band meant the woodpecker must have flown at least 27 miles. Paul Catlett, Camp Blanding’s environmental manager, said it was a tough trip for a bird that usually doesn’t travel long distances.

“It would have endured a number of nights exposed in the open, with poor forage to survive on. The reality is a number of woodpeckers have probably left Ocala, Osceola and Camp Blanding before, searching for a good habitat and simply didn’t make it,” Catlett said. “This bird is extremely lucky to find a place that could support it.”

Camp Blanding is at the center of the 100-mile long Ocala to Osceola wildlife corridor, a connected conservation area led by the National Florida Land Trust and other partners.

“The migration of this one little bird is a big deal because it proves the populations we have in the O2O want to move and expand over the landscape to find other red-cockaded woodpeckers to reproduce,” said NFLT President Jim McCarthy. “Helping them to do that is exactly the goal of our O2O Wildlife Corridor project.”

Catlett said Camp Blanding would continue with prescribed burns to make the environment suitable for woodpeckers.

“The biggest thing is managing properties that we have. That involves putting lots of fire on the landscape. These birds require routine prescribed fires,” Catlett said. “That’s basically the reason of prescribed fire, to keep the hardwoods in check. Hardwoods are naturally on the landscape, but if you take fire away, the hardwoods come up and the birds leave. They really need an open pine stand.”

Catlett added there is a chance the woodpecker could be removed from the endangered list soon because of conservation efforts.

“It’s very much a success story,” he said.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment