Red-cockaded Woodpecker

The red-cockaded woodpecker has become endangered under the pressure of fire suppression, forest clearcutting, and the planting of fast-rotation commercial tree farms. However, woodpecker numbers have seen some rebound from the use of prescribed burns, installation of artificial nestboxes, the planting of longleaf pines, and incentives from the Safe Harbor program under the Endangered Species Act.


Narrator: Richard "Dick" ConnerTitle: Native Americans, Fire, and Longleaf PineDuration: 00:03:06Date: October 8, 2021Richard "Dick" Conner, Ph.D., is Scientist Emeritus in the Wildlife Habitat and Silviculture Laboratory, a part of the Southern Research Station in Nacogdoches, an operation of the U.S. Forest Service. He has studied a number of topics, but is very well known for his work with understanding the life history and restoration strategies for the red-cockaded woodpecker. Here he describes how the logging of longleaf pines and the suppression of fires (once orchestrated by Native Americans) contributed to the woodpecker's decline.Narrator: Mary Ruth HolderTitle: Nestboxes and DownlistingDuration: 00:01:42Date: August 27, 2021Mary Ruth Holder is an environmental attorney who served at the Texas Attorney General's Office, and led the legal division at the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. While at the AG, she participated in litigation to protect the red-cockaded woodpecker. Here she talks about recent efforts to downlist the bird, likely reliant on artificial nestboxes, rather than a full restoration of the forest.Narrator: Buddy HollisTitle: Artificial NestsDuration: 00:02:47Date: March 1, 2008Buddy Hollis, a Newton-based nature guide deeply familiar with the Big Thicket of east Texas, explains the work by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Temple-Inland company to restore the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker by providing artificial nests.Narrator: Clif LaddTitle: Knock-on EffectsDuration: 00:04:03Date: December 15, 2022Clif Ladd, a consulting wildlife biologist, recalls studies he did for TXDOT on road expansions that might affect the rare red-cockaded woodpecker. He points out that these project-by-project mitigation efforts do not address secondary habitat impacts from development that the improved roads enable, nor on the statewide changes in land uses and habitat availability. He recommends a real estate transfer fee as a way to fund land protection that would counter these big-scale impacts. Narrator: Sheridan LorenzTitle: Don't Cut AnymoreDuration: 00:02:09Date: August 24, 2021Sheridan Lorenz is the founder of Cook's Branch Conservancy, a Pineywoods preserve, restoration project, and educational site near Magnolia, Texas. Here she lays out the multi-year string of fortunate events that saved the red-cockaded woodpeckers there - the decision to stop cutting the older trees, the choice not to develop the land for the Woodlands, the infection of the mature pines with red heart disease, and the identification of the colonies by Texas Parks and Wildlife.Narrator: Brandt MannchenTitle: Woodpecker ZoosDuration: 00:02:43Date: October 22, 2003Brandt Mannchen, chair of the Houston Sierra Club's Forestry Subcommittee, has successfully helped press the U.S. Forest Service to manage the national forests of Texas to restore the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. While the Service's approach has brought the woodpecker back from the brink, it has done so through commercial logging and promotion of a younger, less diverse forest.Narrator: Bob McFarlaneTitle: Scientist/AdvocateDuration: 00:02:09Date: October 1, 1999Dr. Bob McFarlane, a consulting ecologist in Houston, explains the dilemma that many scientists face, seeking to be objective and neutral in their research, but also able to be an advocate when necessary. He points out that this tension is especially fraught when studying endangered species, such as red-cockaded woodpeckers.Narrator: Sarah MitchellTitle: Thinning and BurningDuration: 00:03:56Date: August 20, 2021Sarah Mitchell, based in Austin and trained in physical geography and remote sensing, is the executive director of Cook's Branch Conservancy, near Montgomery, Texas. The Conservancy manages over 5600 acres that is home to one of the largest red-cockaded woodpecker colonies on private lands. Here she describes the process of removing the forest mid-story, doing selective logging, and introducing prescribed fire to help restore the habitat for the woodpecker and other species.Narrator: Craig RudolphTitle: Private LandsDuration: 00:01:23Date: October 20, 2021Craig Rudolph, Ph.D., served as a research ecologist at the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Research Station in Nacogdoches, Texas, for over 30 years. During his tenure there, he studied the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker's behavior and helped develop restoration strategies for the bird. One thing that he realized is that the bird's recovery required growing stands of 100-year old trees, a long-term challenge that is difficult to meet on private property, where ownership can change rapidly.Narrator: Daniel SaenzTitle: Heart Rot FungusDuration: 00:03:22Date: August 24, 2021Dan Saenz, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Research Station, has spent over 30 years studying timber and wildlife in southern U.S. forests. Much of his work has focused on the red-cockaded woodpecker. Here he explains the roots of the bird's decline, and its later recovery, which date back to the Bonanza era of lumbering at the turn of the 20th century.Narrator: Larry SheltonTitle: Old-growth ObligatesDuration: 00:03:03Date: August 29, 1997Larry Shelton, a cabinetmaker and forestry consultant based near Nacogdoches, discusses the threats of modern silviculture to the niche species of the east Texas forests. As the Forest Service and lumber companies shift to younger-age tree farms, the old-growth obligates, such as the ivory-billed woodpecker and red-cockaded woopecker, have suffered.Narrator: Mary Van KerrebrookTitle: Clearcuts and LawsuitsDuration: 00:04:22Date: May 16, 2020Mary Van Kerrebrook, a Houston attorney and long-time volunteer on conservation causes, worked on legal challenges during the 1980s and 1990s to the Forest Service's policy of clearcutting in the national forests of Texas, focusing on their impact on the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. In this excerpt, she discusses how clearcutting was a departure from long-standing Service policy, and how its wildlife effects were highlighted by its own staff biologists.Narrator: John YoungTitle: Chainsaws and Wood PuttyDuration: 00:03:48Date: December 8, 2023John Young, Ph.D,, a wildlife biologist who has served at a non-profit, a wildlife consulting firm, and two state agencies, recalls the time during his early career when he worked on early efforts to install artificial nesting boxes to save and restore endangered populations of red-cockaded woodpeckers.