Texas State Forest relocates red-cockaded woodpeckers to W.G. Jones State Forest

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The Texas A&M Forest Service received two pairs of red-cockaded woodpeckers from the Sam Houston National State Forest in October, according to a November announcement from the forest service. The birds were moved to enhance the gene pool of the small colony of red-cockaded woodpeckers already residing in the W.G. Jones State Forest.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers are endangered birds who make their homes in cavities in mature pine trees. In an effort to revive their dwindling population, officials with the Texas A&M Forest Service said they have been involved in a translocation project with the Western Range Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers Translocation Cooperative. In 2014 four woodpeckers were moved from a colony in Louisiana’s Kisatchie National Forest to W.G. Jones State Forest. In mid-October, four more birds joined the colony, being translocated from the Sam Houston National State Forest.

Texas State Forest Biologist Donna Work, who oversees the translocation project, said loss of habitat was the main cause for the woodpecker’s endangered status. Red-cockaded woodpeckers nest in living, mature pines, while other woodpeckers make their cavities in dead trees. Work said the birds had lived in the W.G. Jones State Forest since the 1960s, and it was home to the largest urbanized population of red-cockaded woodpeckers. The birds lay up to three eggs at a time, and their main predators are hawks and rat snakes, who can reach the bird’s cavities if they’re not high enough, Work said.

The translocation from Louisiana has proved successful, according to the TFS, with at least three of the four birds taking up residence in the forest. No hatchlings were born in the first year, however, for the last three years, one of the Louisiana birds has been the breeding female in one of the groups in the Jones State Forest.

“The [red-cockaded woodpeckers] were moved into the Jones State Forest, at last check, did not stay where we put them, but that is not unusual,” Work said. “Sometimes they have to find their own place in the population. Will know more maybe later in the year.”

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