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Red-cockaded Woodpecker Picoides borealis


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Red-cockaded Woodpecker, male
credit: Lance Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker, United States Marine Corps

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Picidae, Woodpeckers view all from this family

Description ADULT Has black back and wings with neat, even, white barring. Tail is mostly black above, barred whitish below. Head has black crown, nape, and malar stripe, and otherwise white plumage including patch at base of bill and behind eye. Underparts are white with distinct black spots and bars on flanks. Male has narrow red spot (the "cockade") at upper rear edge of white "face." JUVENILE Similar, but with red forecrown; acquires adult plumage by first fall.

Dimensions Length: 8" (20 cm)

Endangered Status The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered throughout its range in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. This species needs old-growth pines for its habitat, and in the 1800s great stands of these trees were felled across the Southeast for lumber. The 20th century saw the development of renewable forestry techniques, and there are now many pinelands, but most of them grow in rows and lack the diversity of the former forests. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker requires trees that are a minimum of 80 to 120 years old, and it will be a long while before it is known whether it will recover.

Habitat Rare resident of mature southeastern pine forests maintained in part by regular natural fires. Habitat loss and degradation has resulted in forest fragmentation and geographical isolation of some populations; vulnerable to local extinction. Its fate mirrors that of its habitat.

Observation Tips Visit suitable habitats and listen for its distinctive call.

Range Mid-Atlantic, Texas, Plains, Florida, Southeast

Voice Utters a squeaky quee'up.

Discussion Ladder-backed woodpecker that is unhelpfully named, since male's red "cockade" is seldom visible in field. Excavates nest hole in mature pine, lives in family groups, and engages in cooperative breeding. Sexes are similar.