Piney Grove Preserve harbors one of Virginia's last breeding populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers and the northernmost population in the U.S. Listed as endangered in 1970, this charismatic black-and-white woopecker gets its name from a barely visible speck of red on each side of the male's cap.
Nesting exclusively in live pine trees, the bird requires mature trees with soft heartwood for excavating nest cavities. Red-cockaded woodpeckers once numbered in the hundreds of thousands throughout the Southeast and up into New Jersey, but the loss of old-growth pine habitat led to a dramatic decline.
What TNC is Doing
TNC acquired the first tract for the preserve in 1998 from the Hancock Timber Resource Group, and several additional purchases brought Piney Grove to its current size.
Beginning in 2001, red-cockaded woodpeckers captured from stable populations in the Carolinas were released at Piney Grove to boost the number of breeding colonies.
By investing in our forest restoration efforts, Conservancy supporters have helped us to enhance habitat and expand the preserve's breeding groups of red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Surveys conducted at Piney Grove in 2017 by the Center for Conservation Biology documented 13 potential breeding groups. 96 individual birds were identified at Piney Grove and Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Regue during the calendar year. This is the largest number of woodpeckers known to occur in Virginia since the early 1980s.
Protecting and restoring Piney Grove's special resources require active management. To maintain and expand the pine-savanna habitat upon which the red-cockaded woodpecker and myriad other species depend, we conduct frequent prescribed burns. Our science staff works closely with state and federal agencies and highly trained volunteers to implement safe, effective fire management.