By Jim Cox, Vertebrate Ecologist
The final big push to re-established an endangered woodpecker on Tall Timbers was completed this fall. A total of six Red-cockaded Woodpeckers was released on Tall Timbers in September and October in hopes of pushing the population up to around six nesting territories in 2010. The juvenile woodpeckers hatched on neighboring properties throughout the Red Hills, but chances of a juvenile woodpecker reaching Tall Timbers through natural dispersal are pretty low at this point, so translocation is the best method for building up our numbers. It’s much too early to tell whether this latest cohort will take to their new homes, but retention rates observed for previous translocation efforts have been high compared to other sites (ca. 55% overall). Four territorial pairs were known to exist on Tall Timbers prior to this latest influx of new birds.
Studies of color-banded shrikes on Tall Timbers also have unearthed some interesting new findings. The status of shrikes in our region has always been a bit uncertain. Some believe we receive migrants in winter, while others maintain our birds are resident throughout the year. Shrikes banded this past summer are primarily using the same areas used in summer, though many birds are focusing their winter hunting efforts on roads, mowed lanes, and other areas with low-stature vegetation. Interesting, a pair that successfully fledged four young earlier this year is now acting a bit like oil and vinegar. The two adults have maintained adjacent home ranges but show very little over-lap between areas being used. Although the pair was forced to tango in order to produce and care for young, winter seems to be a time of solitary hunting and inner reflection.
The final big news for the fall is implementation of new nuthatch research on Arcadia Plantation. To assess the effects of habitat quality on nuthatch breeding biology, we’re providing territories with supplemental food and bird houses and monitoring the effects such augmentation may have on the timing of nests, number of helpers retained in the territory, and other features. Many thanks to Mrs. E.V. Wade for granting us access to portions of the property to conduct this work.