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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Cavity Makers

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Leuconotopicus borealis

Red-cockaded woodpecker perched on a tree trunk in front of its tree cavity entrance
Red-cockaded Woodpeckers breed in mature pine forests in the southeastern United States from April to July.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are commonly found in longleaf pine forests, which are habitats characterized by open, park-like stands of old-growth pine trees where insects are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage on mature pine trees and in the understory for ants, beetles, spiders, and other insects. They may also feed on fruits and seeds.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers have a unique foraging behavior, excavating cavities in live pine trees, often those infected with red heart fungus, which softens the wood and facilitates cavity creation. They also maintain resin wells around their cavities, which deter predators.

Courtship involves vocalizations and mutual tapping displays. Both sexes engage in these activities, often near their nesting cavities. Males may also perform flight displays to attract females.

Nesting cavities are typically made in live pine trees, usually longleaf pines, ranging from 3 to 15 meters above ground. These cavities are maintained and used by the group year-round. They prefer trees aged 60 years or older. The cavity is lined with wood chips and may be enlarged slightly during the breeding season.

Egg laying typically begins in late April to early May, with the female laying 3 to 4 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 10 to 12 days. After hatching, both parents and helper birds (usually offspring from previous years) feed the chicks with insects and regurgitated food.

Chicks learn to forage by observing and following adult birds and helpers. They are vulnerable to predation by snakes, birds of prey, and mammals. As they develop, they begin to forage more independently but remain within the family group.

Chick fledging occurs about 26 to 29 days after hatching. Adults and helpers continue to guide and feed the fledglings for several weeks, during which the young woodpeckers learn to forage more effectively and expand their diet.

Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are non-migratory and remain in their territories year-round. They do not undertake long-distance migrations but may move locally in response to changes in food availability or habitat conditions.

Wintering habitats are the same as their breeding habitats, including mature pine forests. They forage for insects, fruits, and seeds during the winter months.