Are pileated woodpeckers attracted to red-cockaded woodpecker cavity trees?

  • Author(s): Saenz, Daniel; Conner, Richard N.; McCormick, James R.
  • Date: 2002
  • Station ID: Miscellaneous Publication-SRS-


Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) cause damage to Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) cavity trees in the form of cavity enlargement or other excavations on the surface of the pine tree. However, it is not known whether Pileated Woodpeckers excavate more frequently on Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavity trees than on noncavity trees or how stand structure is related to the frequency of Pileated Woodpecker excavation. Also, it is unclear whether the cavity itself provides the stimulus to Pileated Woodpeckers to excavate or whether the presence of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and their activities are attracting them. We surveyed all of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavity trees (n = 202) and 110 control trees in the loblolly (Pinus taeda)-shortleaf (P. echinata) pine habitat on the Angelina National Forest for recent Pileated Woodpecker excavation and found that approximately 7.4% of all cavity trees were damaged while no control trees showed any evidence of Pileated Woodpecker damage. The rate of Pileated Woodpecker excavation was negatively associated with hardwood midstory height and density. Pileated Woodpeckers appeared to focus most of their excavations on Red-cockaded Woodpeckers cavity entrances. WC suggest that Pileated Woodpeckers may be attracted to Red-cockaded Woodpecker cavity trees. especially the cavity, and that midstory removal used to improve Red-cockaded Woodpecker habitat may increase the incidence of damage to the cavity trees by Pileated Woodpeckers in the current fragmented landscape.

  • Citation: Saenz, Daniel; Conner, Richard N.; McCormick, James R. 2002. Are pileated woodpeckers attracted to red-cockaded woodpecker cavity trees? Wilson Bulletin. 114(3): 291-296.

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