Wildlife on Piedmont NWR
Today, through the efforts of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the 35,000 acre wildlife refuge provides an abundance of wildlife. By implementing good forest management practices, wildlife populations have been restored, many in greater numbers than when settlers first arrived. There are many opportunities for wildlife viewing throughout the year. Several hiking trails, the 6 mile Wildlife Drive and 45 miles of gravel roads provide ample opportunity to view wildlife in a natural setting.
A Protected Home for Many Birds
The rich diversity of habitats provides a haven for nearly 200 species of birds. In the forests, birds commonly seen include woodpeckers, warblers, flycatchers, brown-headed nuthatches and chickadees. Wood ducks, great blue herons, and belted kingfishers may be found near wetlands. In open areas, look for hawks, bluebirds and the wild turkey.
There are many opportunities to see and hear neotropical songbirds on Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. However, April and May provide the best viewing time. Meanwhile, winter waterfowl can be observed from December through February on refuge ponds.
The Red-cockaded Woodpecker
The Red-cockaded woodpecker’s common name came into use during the early 1800’s when ‘cockade’ was regularly used to refer to a ribbon or other ornament worn in a hat. Female RCWs lack the red cockade. Juvenile males have a red 'patch' on the top of the head above the eyes. This patch disappears during the fall of their first year at which time their ‘red-cockades’ appear. This single cockade feather is usually not visible on the adult males. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker (RCW), an endangered species, has first priority in refuge management on Piedmont. The RCW, a native bird of the southeastern forests, prefers mature, older age, open canopy pine stands with a low ground cover of grasses and forbs. Over the years, the RCW has declined throughout its range. Its decline has been traced to the loss of older age, open pine forest in the south, a fire dependent system in which the RCW is adapted. Because fire is a historic disturbance agent, the refuge uses prescribed fire on a 2-3 year rotation to manage RCW habitat.
During 2006, Piedmont NWR was home to 38 active clusters, an aggregate of cavity trees used by a group, and 82 nestlings were observed.
The best time of year to view the RCW is in the spring. Please contact the Refuge office for more information on viewing opportunities by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by calling (478) 986-5441. For more information on the Red Cockaded Woodpecker contact the RCW Coordinator at http://www.fws.gov/rcwrecovery.
A .pdf file with birds seen in the Piedmont area by season is available at Refuge Bird List.pdf.
Creatures of the Night
Most mammals living on Piedmont remain hidden during the day and are active at night. However, whitetail deer, fox squirrels and gray squirrels often forage during daylight hours. Feeding by the light of the moon are oppossums, bats, beavers, foxes, coyotes, raccoons and bobcats.
There are 92 species of butterflies confirmed as occuring on Piedmont NWR. The refuge conducts an annual North American Butterfly Association count in partnership with the State of Georgia non-game wildlife program and expert volunteers.
Volunteers and refuge staff documented all of the observations recorded in the Piedmont butterfly list. The list is updated periodically to include new sightings or changes. Visitors making noteworthy observations are urged to inform the Refuge of details such as observers, dates, site of observation and the species seen.
For more information on butterflies, visit the FAQs site hosted by the North American Butterfly Association.
Red-cockaded woodpeckers are one endangered bird species that make Piedmont their home. Photo: USFWS.
A varigated fritillary, one of the 92 species of butterflies you may see at Piedmont. Photo: Dr. Thomas G. Barnes/USFWS.
A red-tailed hawk. Photo: Mark Bohn, USFWS.