Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Endangered Species here in Louisiana

One of the features of the Great Louisiana Birdfest sponsored by Northlake Nature Center is a trip to the Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge near Mandeville, Louisiana. The ranger at Big Branch told us a little bit about it. Basically it was started by a group of private citizens in the area that saw the influx of population from New Orleans and wanted to preserve the natural areas that surrounded them. They wanted their families to be able to enjoy hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. So they put their land together and asked the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service to run it for them. As they were exploring the land and deciding about management, the biologists discovered something interesting...the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, a bird designated as an endangered species. This link will take you to a page that tells about the birds. They really area a unique bird--particularly for a woodpecker. For example, they nest in live trees, live in colonies containing multiple generations and ward off predators with sap wells that protect the entrance to their nest holes.

The forest where the birds live in Louisiana is primarily loblolly pine, although they are replanting the longleaf pine for the birds -- they just grow extremely slowly. They've helped the colonies along in some places by placing nesting boxes in the trees, which the birds seem to acccept. The nesting trees are marked with white rings around the trees, which is great for us lowly visitors. The forests are managed with fire. That is, they do controlled burn of the forest to thin and remove underbrush periodically and they also keep the trees at a certain density to keep it all healthy.

This first video is of a tree that shows a man-made nesting box that was inserted into a tree. You can see it's been well used...the sap wells around the hole are well-developed.

These next videos show the birds in and around the nesting hole. It was fairly early in the morning and the light wasn't great, not to mention the hole was about 20 feet above the ground, but I did the best I could. I hope to go back and try again one day.

Red-cockaded WP - best shot

Red-cockaded WP at the hole

Red-cockaded WP working the tree

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