For years, wildlife biologists are climbing a 40-feet pine tree to build a ready-made home for endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Referred to as “RCW,” the woodpeckers are often left homeless as bees, wasps, snakes, and other unregisterered tenants inhabit the firest undergrowth. To help RCWs thrive, biologists are helping build them their nests called cavities every spring.
“In the spring of every year,we go and we inspect all of the red-cockaded woodpeckers’ cavities on the installation,” said Doug Linden, a wildlife biologist with the National Resources Management branch of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning’s Directorate of Public Works.
The biologists use Global Positioning System (GPS) to identify whether a tree is home to a woodpecker. They can also easily check the marked tree to see if the cavities have debris or water that might trouble the bird.
RCW has been listed as an endangered species since 1970. By 1990, a federal conservation guideline has been issued to begin a set of conservation efforts to help the bird. Since then, the KCW population has recovered enough that the federal authorities are proposing to change its status from endangered to threatened.
The red-cockaded woodpecker is the only woodpecker species in North America which only lives in pines. They take years to peck a big enough cavity in a living pine tree.
“It may take them anywhere from six months to three years to complete a cavity, depending on how often they work on it,” said Linden. Having no cavity leaves the birds unprotected and vulnerable in the forest which is why Fort Bennings is helping by building box-like wooden cavities called inserts.
“As opposed to a bird that might need a couple of years to get that nest completed, we can go out to a stand and put in numerous cavities,” he added.