Up a tree for the RCW

I am not a bird watcher, but as a volunteer at the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge I have learned a little about the red-cockaded woodpecker, commonly referred to as the RCW.  The RCW is on the endangered species and the refuge is home to approximately 68 nesting pairs.

To encourage nesting in the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge they have been drilling starter holes or inserting artificial cavities into slash pines and longleaf pine trees.37990FE5-A7ED-4D53-8A5C-E4CDC64B8E3F

On Tuesday, I accompanied the biologist, Dean, to northwest edge of the swamp to assist with adding RCW inserts to a couple of trees.

The insert is placed on the southwest side of the tree and around twenty feet high.

The inserts were made of cedar with a metal screen to discourage other birds and animals from enlarging the opening and claiming the house for their own. Dean has had to remove flying squires, a snake, blue birds and a brown-headed nuthatch.

RCW usually choose Long Leaf Pines for their home, but today the inserts were placed in slash pines. These trees were chosen because of their location. There needs to be mature trees near by, but not too many to prevent the RCW from being able to fly and forge for their food. The circumference of the tree needs to be large enough to accommodate the house. If the tree is to narrow after cutting a hole the sap will run from the backside of the tree or the tree may split.

After Dean climbed the tree, he traced the bird insert, before cutting on the line with a chain saw. Next he made one inch slates and pulled out the slates like pages from a book. He secured the insert with putty and shims.

The RCW’s are very visual and key in on resin and cavity holes, so he finished off the insert with white spray paint to simulate the running sap.

After returning to the truck, Dean spotted a nest in a surrounding tree that a red cockayed woodpecker had recently created. This confirmed the need for additional RCW housing in the cluster of slash and long leaf pine trees.

RCW created housing
Insert housing

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