Endangered red-cockaded woodpecker finds home in local forest

The red-cockaded woodpecker lives in the W.G. Jones State Forest near The Woodlands.

The red-cockaded woodpecker lives in the W.G. Jones State Forest near The Woodlands.

The red-cockaded woodpecker is an endangered bird, and approximately nine call the 1,700-acre W.G. Jones State Forest near The Woodlands home.

The birds are mostly spread out across Southeastern states, and officials with the Texas A&M Forest Service do what they can to ensure the forest is in good condition for the birds to thrive, said Donna Work, Texas A&M Forest Service biologist.

Red-cockaded woodpecker“In this forest, sometimes they stay where you put them, and sometimes they don’t,” Work said. “They kind of mix around and find their place in the population.”

To maintain the environment for red-cockaded woodpeckers, forest officials keep up with mulching, spraying herbicide and burning the midlayer of plants in the forest, when necessary. This maintains an herbaceous ground covering for bugs, which are a large part of the bird’s diet. Removing the midlayer of flora also protects the birds from rat snakes and other predators, Work said.

To rebuild the population in Jones State Forest, some red-cockaded woodpeckers were translocated—or safely moved—from Louisiana in 2014, Work said.

“In our case, we really needed something to enhance our gene pool because we’re kind of isolated here and kind of stagnating,” she said.

Red-cockaded woodpeckers have declined in population due to habitat loss, Work said. Although birds were moved to the state forest, no hatchlings were born last year. However, three-fourths of the birds that were moved in 2014 have remained in the forest, she said.

Forest officials continue to monitor nest activity and check in on the family groups, which consist of one breeding female, one breeding male and one or two helper birds, said Work, adding there are approximately four family groups in the forest.

By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.