Bird species have faced serious declines since the Americas were colonized by Europeans. One of these species is the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. With estimated populations ranging from 920,000-1,500,000 groups at the time of European settlement these birds had fallen to only 10,000 individuals within 4,000 groups by the time they were listed as endangered in 1979.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

This drastic decrease in numbers was due to an almost complete loss of habitat. These birds rely on old-growth longleaf pine forests. Particularly because they burrow in trees that are infected with red heart disease. This fungus is fairly common in trees that are 70 years old or more but with few trees left in this age range there was little habitat left in which these birds could nest.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker male

Red-cockaded Woodpecker male

The bird does seem to be on the increase in recent years. Now considered vulnerable by the IUCN the birds have increased to around 6,105 breeding groups according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This increases is largely attributed to better management practices for these birds and their ecosystems. Once mostly restricted to South Carolina they have now expanded back out to cover 11 states (AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, NC, MS, OK, SC, VA, and TX).

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