music; ambience Red-cockaded Woodpecker
DE: “They will climb 40 or 50 feet up in the tree, presumably looking for an easy meal, birds eggs, or chicks, or whatever they’re looking for up in the cavities.”
JM: In Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the endangered Red-cockaded woodpecker excavates its living quarters out of the trunk of its favorite tree: the Longleaf pine. And once its nest cavity is hollowed out, the bird creates a sticky barrier down the length of the tree, and that helps keep certain predators at bay. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Wildlife biologist Dean Easton…
DE: “One of the things that the bird does is it will peck holes in the bark, and create, they’re called resin wells, it will drip the sap from these resin wells, and maintain this over time. And the theory is that this sap is a deterrent for predators, mainly snakes. Snakes try to climb the tree, and if it’s sappy, the scales will get clogged up, and it won’t be able to grip as well, so if it’s sappy, they’ll drop off and try to find another tree to climb up.”
JM: Unfortunately, the sap wells the birds create in Longleaf pines can be a fire hazard, and firefighters take special precautions to protect the trees.
DE: “They go out to the trees that have a lot of resin on them, and rake all the fuels, take all the fuel out: the grass, the saw palmetto and the vegetation around the base of the tree, that will ignite when the area burns. And it reduces the potential for any ignition of the resin wells on the tree, because they will definitely ignite, and it will burn all the way up to the cavity, inside in some cases.”
JM: Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.