Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
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The Red-cockaded Woodpecker

RCW at a cavity. Credit: USFWS

RCW at a cavity. Credit: USFWS

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' in the center of their black crown. This patch disappears during the fall of their first year at which time their ‘red-cockades’ appear.

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, 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 open pine forest in the south, a fire dependent system in which the RCW is adapted. Because fire is a historic disturbance agent, wherever possible, the refuge uses prescribed fire to manage RCW habitat.

At the end of 2004, Piedmont NWR was home to 39 active clusters, an aggregate of cavity trees used by a group, and 49 nestlings were observed.

For more information on the Red Cockaded Woodpecker contact the RCW Coordinator at http://www.fws.gov/rcwrecovery.


Last updated: September 29, 2009