CHEROKEE COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - The U.S. Forest Service is developing special nesting sites in the Davy Crockett National Forest to help grow the number of an endangered woodpecker species.
The forest was among the hardest hit areas in April when three tornadoes touched down near Alto. Among all of the timber that was either damaged or destroyed were nesting sites of the red cockaded woodpecker.
The bird’s preference is living in shortleaf pines, about 60-years-old, with a clearing underneath and a penthouse view 30 feet in the air. It’s the kind of trees taken down by three tornadoes April 13, affecting families of the red-cockaded woodpeckers, known as clusters.
U.S Forest officials were out Monday afternoon installing special artificial nesting sites to help the woodpeckers settle much faster than they would’ve otherwise.
“A wildlife biologist is going to begin the process of making the hole in the tree where artificial cavities will be inserted into the tree,” said Tom Phillips, ranger with the U.S. Forest Service. “Again, we do this as part of the management for red cockaded woodpeckers and aid in their recovery.”
Phillips said the tornado in April impacted at least five red cockaded woodpecker clusters. The species of woodpecker is listed on the endangered species list.
“It has a recovery plan, and part of what our management here on the Forest [Service] is to aid in that recovery plan for the recovery of the species,” Phillips explained.
The installations are crucial to the bird’s recovery following the tornadoes. It takes the small bird about two years to create a natural cavity. Once the artificial cavity is inserted, carpenters putty holds it in place. Extra is dabbed on the trunk to mimic sap. The woodpecker zooms in on that; sap can discourage predators, like rat snakes.
“We monitor these boxes once we put them in to check to see if any birds have moved in," Phillips explained.
Biologists monitor the bird will a peeper scope, a tiny camera on a telescopic pole, which slips in and our of the nesting cavity.
The scientists will return as soon as a week to what is now an inactive cluster in hopes that red-cockaded woodpeckers have selected the cavities for their new homes. With even more luck, the birds will breed a second time this year to maintain the endangered species population, which was last recorded at around 80 breeding pairs in the Davy Crockett National Forest alone.
Tornado contract loggers will receive strict orders to stay 200 ft. away from active clusters.