Reoccupation of Abandoned Clusters of Cavity Trees (Colonies) by Red-cockaded WoodPeCkers

We documented red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) occupation of cavity tree clusters on North Carolina study areas from 1980-88. Most occupied cavity tree clusters (93%) were used in consecutive years, but 6.8% were abandoned each year. Abandoned sites were captured or reoccupied at an annual rate of 8.7%, implying there is a 60% chance that an abandoned site will be reoccupied in a 10-year period. However, recently abandoned clusters were reoccupied at a much higher rate than long-abandoned clusters. Cluster occupation was dynamic with some being occupied, abandoned and reoccupied, or captured during our study. Cluster use by solitary males often was intermediate temporally between group occupation and abandonment. Habitat enhancement may improve reoccupation rates and could be an important short-term strategy to increase the number of social units of this endangered species. Cavity tree clusters are an important resource that should be conserved, irrespective of current activity status.

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27877