Pine savanna at Virginia's Piney Grove Preserve.
Piney Grove Pine savanna at Virginia's Piney Grove Preserve. © Robert B. Clontz / TNC

Places We Protect

Piney Grove Preserve


Protecting and restoring pine savannas and one of Virginia's most endangered birds.

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

At Piney Grove and all along the Virginia Pinelands, we work to conserve southeastern Virginia’s historic loblolly and longleaf pine forests and the variety of life they support.

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.

Public access to Piney Grove is available via the Constance Darden Nature Trail, which offers an easy 0.3-mile walk.  The trail is open daily, February through October. To ensure visitor safety, the trail is closed November through January due to hunting in the vicinity.

Download our interpretive brochure and map (pdf) to bring along on your next visit.  The trail is ADA accessible; the observation deck at the end of the trail is not.

The gateway to Piney Grove Preserve is named in honor of the late Constance Darden, a devoted conservationist and philanthropist, and made possible by a generous gift from the Darden family.

What to See: Plants

Old-growth pine savanna and two rare plant species: seymeria and Carolina peatmoss.

What to See: Animals

In addition to the red-cockaded woodpecker, Piney Grove is home to many other birds and the state-rare fox squirrel.

Piney Grove Preserve
The Nature Conservancy's Piney Grove Preserve provides habitat for the northernmost population of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

Piney Grove Preserve Public access to Piney Grove is available via the ADA-accessible Constance Darden Nature Trail.