The red-cockaded woodpecker is making a comeback

July 11, 2019, 8:18 a.m.

Endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers were once common across the Southeast U.S. The mostly black-and-white birds made their homes in pine forests, drilling holes in the trees to search for insects. But with increased logging, much of their habitat was lost. As the trees diminished, so did the woodpeckers.

As their populations began to drop, the birds were declared endangered in the early '70s, earning them some protections and encouraging humans to protect them.

Biologists drilled holes in trees to make it easier for the woodpeckers to create nests. People who owned property where woodpeckers lived worked with the government to either protect the birds or relocate them to public land, according to an Associated Press report. Owners of pine forests burned undergrowth to keep the forests in check.

Because of all these programs, populations of this woodpecker — which gets its name from the almost invisible red ribbon on a male bird's cheeks at certain times of year — have grown throughout the South and now are appearing in places they haven't been seen in years.

In South Carolina, for example, the state had 681 clusters of red-cockaded woodpeckers in 1993, according to the AP. Today, the state has more than 1,450 clusters.

And recently, a red-cockaded woodpecker was captured at Camp Blanding, a military installation in Clay County, Florida, reports WJXT News4Jax. Although it's not unusual for the birds to be found in the area, this woodpecker made quite the trek.

This particular woodpecker came from the Osceola National Forest 27 miles away, marking the first time this species had moved that far between the two locations since researchers started banding and recording the woodpeckers more than 25 years ago.

Scientists say the bird's trip is proof that a wildlife corridor from Ocala to Osceola (O2O) is working.

"That was a tough voyage for that woodpecker because none of it's habitat exists between here and Osceola," said Paul Catlett, environmental manager for Camp Blanding. "It would have endured a number of nights exposed, in the open, with poor forage to survive on."