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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Intensive management benefits a population of red-cockaded woodpecker Picoides borealis at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina, USA

Published source details

Franzreb K.E. (1997) Success of intensive management of a critically imperiled population of red-cockaded woodpeckers in South Carolina. Journal of Field Ornithology, 68, 458-470


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Reduce inter-specific competition for nest sites of woodpeckers by removing competitor species Bird Conservation

A study in mixed pine Pinus spp. forests in South Carolina, USA (Franzreb 1997) found that a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers Picoides borealis increased from four individuals in 1985 to 99 in 1996, whilst the number of breeding pairs increased from one to 19 following intensive management. Management included the removal of 2,304 southern flying squirrels Glaucomys volans (a competitor for, and kleptoparasite of, woodpecker cavities) from the site. Of the squirrels removed, 1,511 (66%) were from artificial cavities, 652 (28%) from natural cavities and 141 (6%) from nest boxes. Other interventions included the provision of artificial cavities and nest boxes (see ‘General responses to small/declining populations – Provide artificial nesting sites’), fitting artificial cavities with restrictor plates to prevent them being enlarged by other woodpeckers (see ‘Protect nest sties from competitors’). Other interventions included translocations of adults and fledglings and habitat management and are discussed in ‘General responses to small/declining populations – Translocate individuals’ and ‘Threat: Natural system modifications – Forest modifications’.

 

Apply herbicide to mid- and understorey vegetation Bird Conservation

A study in mixed pine Pinus spp. forests in 1985-1996 in South Carolina, USA (Franzreb 1997) found that a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers Picoides borealis increased following the application of herbicides to midstory vegetation amongst other interventions. The authors emphasise that hardwood midstory control using cutting and herbicides and prescribed burning mimicked the natural fire regime and was essential to the success of the project. The results of this study are discussed in more detail in ‘Use prescribed burning’.

 

Use prescribed burning on pine forests Bird Conservation

A study in mixed pine Pinus spp. forests in South Carolina, USA (Franzreb 1997) found that a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers increased from four individuals and one breeding pair in 1985 to 99 and 19 pairs in 1996 following intensive management, including prescribed burning. The authors emphasise that hardwood midstory control using prescribed burning as well as cutting, herbicide applications and thinning of trees mimicked the natural fire regime and was essential to the success of the project. In addition, artificial cavities were installed; southern flying squirrels Glaucomys volans (a cavity competitor) were controlled and 54 woodpeckers were translocated into areas with artificial or natural cavities.

 

Thin trees within forests Bird Conservation

A study in mixed pine forests in 1985-1996 in South Carolina, USA (Franzreb 1997) found that a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers increased following the thinning of trees, reducing basal area to 14-18 m2/ha, amongst other interventions. The results of this study are discussed in more detail in ‘Use prescribed burning’.

 

Protect nest sites from competitors Bird Conservation

A study in mixed pine Pinus spp. forests in 1985-96 in South Carolina, USA (Franzreb 1997) found that a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers Picoides borealis increased following intensive management including fixing artificial cavities with restrictor plates to prevent them being enlarged by other woodpeckers. Other interventions were the provision of artificial cavities and nest boxes (see ‘General responses to small/declining populations – Provide artificial nesting sites’), translocations of adults and fledglings and habitat management (control of midstorey vegetation and prescribed burning) and are discussed in ‘General responses to small/declining populations – Translocate individuals’ and ‘Threat: Natural system modifications – Forest modifications’.

 

Translocate woodpeckers Bird Conservation

A later review (Franzreb 1997) of the same translocation programme as in Allen et al. 1993 found that 63% of 49 adult and subadult red-cockaded woodpeckers Picoides borealis translocated into a very small population in 1986-95 remained at the release site for at least 30 days and 51% (25 birds) had reproduced by July 1996. Over the same period, the peak woodpecker population increased from 10 to 99 individuals and from one to 19 breeding pairs. Similarly, the total number of fledglings produced each year increased from three in 1985 to 43 in 1996 (average of 2.2 fledglings/breeding pair/year). Birds were translocated to the release site from family groups within the same forest block and from more distant sites (see below). This study also discusses the impact of intensive management of habitats and competitor species in ‘Threat: Natural system modifications’, ‘Provide artificial nesting sites’ and ‘Reduce inter-specific competition for nest sites by removing or excluding competitor species’.

 

Manually control or remove midstorey and ground-level vegetation (including mowing, chaining, cutting etc) in forests Bird Conservation

A before-and-after study in mixed pine Pinus spp. forests in 1985-1996 in South Carolina, USA (Franzreb 1997) found that a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers increased following the clearance of midstorey vegetation amongst other interventions. The authors emphasise that hardwood midstorey control using cutting and herbicides and prescribed burning mimicked the natural fire regime and was essential to the success of the project. The results of this study are discussed in more detail in ‘Use prescribed burning’.

 

Provide artificial nesting sites for woodpeckers Bird Conservation

A single site study from 1985-1996 in a pine forest in South Carolina, USA (Franzreb 1997) found that the number of breeding pairs of red-cockaded woodpeckers Picoides borealis increased from one to 19, producing 43 fledglings, and the overall population size grew from four to 99 individuals following the provision of artificial nest cavities amongst other interventions. The mean fledging success for 1985-96 was 2.3 fledglings/nest, which was significantly higher than the regional average (1.7 fledglings/nest).  A total of 305 artificial nest cavities, fitted with metal plates to prevent enlargement by other species (see ‘Protect nest sties from competitors’), were installed over the study period. In addition, the forest midstorey was thinned and prescribed burning used (see ‘Threat: Natural system modifications – Forest modifications’), and birds. Nests were monitored monthly throughout the year except over the breeding season (April-July) when they were monitored weekly.