Wildlife Wednesday on #mypubliclandsroadtrip: Baby Bird Banding in the Lathrop Bayou in Florida
Today, the #mypubliclandsroadtrip moves from the Washington D.C. area down to the Gulf Coast for some behind-the-scenes science. We first visit the Lathrop Bayou in Florida where the BLM Eastern States, Southeastern States Office celebrates a bumper crop of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers.
“Several years ago, I learned a valuable lesson. Don’t just say “yes” to a field trip with a BLM Biologist without asking questions. This particular trip involved four states, mosquitos, no-see-ums, alligators, late night drives, midnight boat rides, and no sleep. Why did we do this? To re-locate Red-cockaded Woodpeckers from a donor site in Georgia to a BLM managed site, Lathrop Bayou, in Florida.
More than a hundred years ago, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker was a common sight in open stands of old hardwood pines throughout the southeast. Unlike most woodpeckers that are content to build their homes in a wide variety of dead tree trunks, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are very particular about where they make their nests. This species seeks out open stands of long leaf pine which have been living for at least 80 years. But the only trees soft enough to allow the woodpeckers to carve out a nest are ones that have been infected with a disease called red-heart fungus. Over the decades, as ancient pine forests have been thinned out, the population of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker decreased. By 1970 they were on the brink of extinction. So when we found two existing clusters here, we were extremely excited. We determined that, “Lathrop Bayou has the potential to house three active, reproducing clusters of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers on its 550 acres of longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat,” said Faye Winters, BLM Wildlife Biologist.
Working with local partners, BLM has been trying to manage and restore the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker population. This year really shows how our efforts have paid off. Nest checks recently completed at Lathrop Bayou documented 4 nest cavities with chicks! There have been up to three nests in previous years, but this is the first time we have ever recorded more than two nests successfully hatching. We recently documented 10 adults and 9 nestlings at the site. Two of the nests are on BLM land, and the other two are on adjacent partner managed lands. All of the chicks have been banded and an attempt will be made soon to determine their sex. This bumper crop of chicks opens the door to potentially donate a chick back to Wetappo, in Georgia, where it would be paired in a new recruitment cluster to increase genetic viability. We consider the increase in the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at Lathrop Bayou to be a huge success, one we have worked hard for and are very proud of.”
By Shayne Banks, BLM Southeastern States Public Affairs Specialist