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Getting to know the Red-cockaded Woodpecker

One of the woodpeckers found exclusively in the southeastern United States is that of the Red-cockaded woodpecker. Once found in plentiful numbers, this bird is now an endangered species mostly due to loss of its habitat. The bird nests only in tall pine trees, and extensive logging in some areas has left this bird with nowhere to call home.

Although it is called “red-cockaded”, the bird is primarily black and white. It has a white chest with black across the top of its head. Its back and wings are black with white spots. The only red found on this bird is a thin line across the side of the male’s head. Aside from this red marking, both male and female woodpeckers look eerily similar.

The red-cockaded woodpecker nests in cavities in pine forests. It has an uncanny way of finding trees that are infected with red heart fungus. It seems that these trees are easier for the bird to bore out a cavity in than pines without this fungus. Even when drilling in softer wood, it can sometimes take one to two years to completely bore out a cavity for nesting.

The fact that it takes such a long time to make a nesting cavity coupled with the fact that not all birds breed may contribute to its being placed on the endangered list.  Even so, this creature does seem to have a natural line of defense against snakes that climb trees. It seems that whenever the woodpecker drills its nest, sap from the pine tree oozes down the trunk of it. This in turn keeps these reptiles from intruding on the female and her eggs during the nesting period.