Red Cockaded Woodpeckers Excavators
ambience: call of Red Cockaded Woodpeckers
That’s the sound of one of the best excavators in the natural world the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Blanc:: So one of the behavioral aspects of the species that makes it so special is that it’s the only woodpecker that excavates cavities in a living pine tree.
Lori Blanc is a research scientist in the department of biological sciences at Virginia Tech. She studies the Red Cockaded Woodpecker on a hall a million acres of forested land on the Florida Panhandle.
Blanc: All other woodpeckers make their cavities in a dead tree or in the dead part of a living tree. So when you think of a pine tree, the Heartwood of that pine is incredibly hard. The sap wood, which is on the outer part, has a lot of sap which the woodpecker has to work through.
So it actually can take up to six years to make one cavity in the tree. The whole family will help make that cavity over time. Each individual bird in the family has its own cavity. There’s one cavity per bird. They use a cavity for roosting at night. And because they’re so predictable – and this is one of the things that makes them so easy to study – they always come home to the same territory every night at sunset. And more often than not the same individuals will go to the same cavity. So if we want to catch a bird, all we have to do is just go there at sunset, wait at their territory, and they will come in.
We may want to catch a bird because it doesn’t have bands. We need to put bands on it so we can track it. We stay there in the evening. They come in and then you sneak up, and we have a fiberglass utility pole that extends up to 50 feet and we put a net on the top of it. You put it right over the cavity. And then you scrape lightly on the tree and just Booo! It just comes flying right out and goes right into that net!
We’ll hear more on the Red Cockaded Woodpecker in future programs. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.