Red-cockaded woodpeckers

W H 512W Red cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis), are about the size of a common cardinal and get their name from small red streaks, called cockades, on each side of the male’s black cap. RCWs live in groups with one breeding pair and several offspring from previous years, typically male, helping with feeding and brooding of nestlings. Their numbers have decreased due to timber harvesting and development of mature pine forests. RCWs make their home in mature pine trees, generally over 80 years old, with longleaf pine being the most commonly preferred. They are the only woodpecker that excavates cavities exclusively in living pine trees. These cavities are also used by many other animals after they are abandoned including insects, birds, snakes, lizards, squirrels, and frogs. This relationship makes them a ‘keystone’ species because the use of their cavities by these animals contributes to the species richness of the pine forest.