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  • The red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) is a federally endangered species found only in the southeastern United States.
  • To survive, the RCW requires large, intact, fire-maintained pine forests like those at the carefully-restored Disney Wilderness Preserve (DWP).
  • Because the RCW had gone locally extinct at DWP, a translocation program was begun in 2007. Scientists first placed artificial cavity boxes into live, mature longleaf pine trees.
  • Shimmed and puttied to keep out rain, the finished product appears very similar to a woodpecker-built cavity.
  • Installing these in several trees in close proximity creates a cluster site. Recording height, direction, tree size and location of cavities helps scientists determine which an RCW may accept.
  • Each fall, scientists trap up to 10 young RCWs from large donor populations and relocate them to DWP. One male and one female are placed in nearby cavities in a cluster site.
  • Conservancy scientist Jennifer Milikowsky collects measurements such as weight, wing length, wing wear, tail length and bill length.
  • The few red feathers seen here give the RCW its name, and let scientists identify this as an adult male. Females lack the red cockade.
  • Translocated birds are given their privacy until April. Here we use a Peeper-scope, or camera-on-a-stick, to look for nesting activity.
  • This is photo from the Peeper-scope. RCWs typically produce two to four, solid white eggs. Parents take turns sitting on the nest.
  • After 11 days, chicks begin to hatch. In a process called pipping, a hatchling uses a sharp point on the end of its beak to break through the shell. This point soon falls off.
  • Both parents feed the chicks frequently, foraging up to a half-mile each day for food. In just two days the chicks appear twice the size of the eggs.
  • At six days, dark spots and bristles begin to appear as wing and tail feathers develop on the chick.
  • At 7-9 days, chicks are carefully removed from the nest and taken to solid ground to be banded. Quickly returned, they are fed by a parent bird who sometimes has watched the process.
  • At 16 days, the chick is fully feathered and active, but will remain safe within the nest cavity for another 10 days before fledging.
  • Scientists use spotting scopes to observe whether chicks survive the most vulnerable time of their life: fledging the nest. In 2010, four fledglings survived at DWP!
Red-cockaded woodpeckers
Knock on Wood at The Disney Wilderness Preserve

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