|Date: ||Mon, 7 Apr 2003 02:27:30 -0400|
|Reply-To: ||Swillis <swillis@WAYXCABLE.COM>|
|Sender: ||Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>|
|From: ||Swillis <swillis@WAYXCABLE.COM>|
|Subject: ||Okefenokee Swamp's Red-headed Woodpeckers|
|Content-Type: ||text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"|
Hey folks & Vicki,
Thanks Vicki for sharing the great info on Red-headed Woodpeckers. It
does make you think.
In order to maybe help fill-in the picture of the "best-looking" member
of the woodpecker family in my biased-opinion, here are some additional
notes from this corner of the state. I focus mainly on Fall through
early Spring accounts, and am sending this overview along in two
parts--the Okefenokee Swamp portion here and the Cumberland Island one
in the next message (same date). I hope you enjoy this.
A variety of sources make a point of mentioning that the Red-headed
Woodpecker often has a very localized distribution for both breeding &
winter use. And in specific reference to Georgia & Florida, it is
considered a year-round inhabitant but with patchy distribution.
The key is said to be the presence of good quantities of acorns and
beechnuts. In the Coastal Plain Live & Water Oaks are deemed some of the
most important oaks. South Georgia experts also mention the pinelands as
a regular habitat; the use in the area of telephone poles for nesting;
and the attraction of burned areas for the species.
In the northern parts of its North American range (down to South
Carolina, particularly Charleston) it has been considered to be
migratory. An 1882 report of a Sept. migration over Long Island, NY
gave the direction as being "from the east and were flying west".
However, the species has been known to be found in "reasonable" numbers
in the North in Winter if the preferred nuts are present in large
In Georgia, Burleigh said that "During the winter months there is a
noticeable fluctuation in numbers, few of these birds being seen some
years and as many as in the summer in others."
OKEFENOKEE SWAMP AREA
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Okefenokee Bird Club, and
others have reports that give insight into what the bird is doing in
this part of South Georgia. F. Hebard's 1941 "Winter Birds of the
Okefinokee and Coleraine" which refers to the Okefenokee Swamp and
western Camden County is also a wonderful source.
Hebard concurred with the majority of the prevailing opinions of his
day. His studies led him to believe that only a few individuals were
permanent (i.e., in Folkston), and so he calls it an "irregular,
sometimes common winter resident."
He indicated that they can range from being abundant to low in numbers
(and that in a scattered fashion) all-the-way to missing. (What else is
left?!) Its occurrence & numbers in the Okefenokee, according to him,
depends upon the presence of large oak groves and their acorn crop. Lots
of acorns--lots of Red-headeds.
Sites favored included islands such as Floyd's & Honey plus the uplands
around Camp Cornelia (the wider area there now called Suwannee
Recreation Area) & the other entrances.
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge biologists' reports, visitor logs, &
other records--especially the more detailed ones in the 1940's--also
matched Hebard's analysis of pattern of use.
In Spring, the two key months for beginning to see an increase in
regular sightings on the Okefenokee refuge are March and April.
For Hebard's Autumn records, his only definite interior Okefenokee
records in the period before 1941 were both in late-November. Later, he
said it was abundant in Sept. & Oct. of 1945.
In 1956 refuge biologists indicated that the birds are "fairly common,
more so in Fall". The late 1990's and early 2000's showed a slight
increase in records for the Fall & Winter from the refuge visitor logs
though sightings were still less than for the other times of the year.
So early Spring and Fall birding can produce several birds, especially
during the waning part of the year--thus matching the time of the acorn
On the Okefenokee's Christmas Bird Counts (1956-2002) approximately 1/4
of the counts had records of the species. Both December & January have
been used for the count-day.
Traditionally, the main areas of the count circle which contain the
birds are in the section from downtown Folkston (Live & Water Oaks,
telephone poles) through the countryside just east of the swamp.
Interestingly, some of the larger numbers of Red-headed Woodpeckers
recorded for a one-day period in the Okefenokee Swamp area regularly
took place during these Winter counts. January's highest was 12 on the
2nd of 1960 & 8 on the 1st of 1959. December had 6 on the 28th of 1974 &
the 30th of 1992.
Based in Waycross, the Okefenokee Bird Club's records extend from 1956
to 2003 and cover South Georgia and North Florida. While the Spring &
Summer months have had the largest totals of birds recorded (as would be
expected), the Fall & Winter seasons also had some relatively large
numbers. Good totals for Waycross were in January (8) & February (28) of
1957 plus October of 1957(11), 1960 (9), and 1961(7).
From April 1999 through June 2002, I conducted Point Count Surveys for
the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. There were 12 designated
survey-stops and birds were also recorded while in transit for the
remaining 8 blocks.
The route used was the Perimeter Road that runs adjacent to the refuge's
eastern boundary. The path alternates between the federal lands and the
privately-owned pine plantations. Both areas include small portions of
mixed-bay, Pond Cypress, & Black Gum forest. My route extended from the
Kingfisher Landing Road intersection in the north to its junction with
the St. Marys River in the south.
Areas outside the refuge were usually in a state of rotating
clear-cutting & this dramatically increased during 2002. Cutting of
pine, Black Gum, and other species was done right-up to the eastern
boundary of the refuge in many areas, and many of the oldest trees
around were removed this past year. The private areas bordering the
western and southern sections of the refuge were also logged in large
I recorded Red-headed Woodpeckers at the majority of the 20 blocks of
the survey. My first and last dates were 2/22 (2000) and 11/9(1999). The
months with the highest number of sightings were August (much drumming &
counter-calls), June (carrying food), and September (in pairs).
The blocks that had the highest number of records overall were the two
in the vicinity of the old Camp Cornelia site (near the refuge entrance
gate) plus an area just south of Kingfisher Landing. They all had
multiple large snags for nesting & the area around the old Camp Cornelia
is famous for its large Live Oaks that regularly draws Black Bears, Wood
Ducks, & Wild Turkey. There are also forests here on the sandy ridges
that contain Turkey Oak and others among the pines. One block that had
nesting birds at the start of the survey had its cavity tree felled
shortly after by logging.
So each bit of a book, report, or informal listing adds to the story of
the Red-headed Woodpecker.
For the rest of this overview that will deal with Cumberland Island,
please see the posting coming up next....
Take care. Good Birding.
Waycross, Ware Co. GA
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