Natural Recovery of Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Cavity Trees After Hurricane Hugo

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Cavity trees of red cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) were monitored on Hobcaw Forest prior to Hurricane Hugo and through April 1996. There were 194 cavity trees in 28 clusters on the forest prior to Hurricane Hugo and 194 in 28 clusters again in April 1996. During that period, 135 cavity trees died: 74 from hurricane wind, 25 from saltwater intrusion, and 36 from wind, lightning, and insects not associated with the hurricane. Five clusters of cavity trees were destroyed or went inactive, and five new clusters were produced by budding. During the period, woodpeckers established new cavities in 135 trees for a complete recovery of cavity trees that had been lost to the hurricane. This recovery occurred without use of cavity inserts, drilled cavities, or translocation of birds. Retrospective comparison of the prehurricane forest to the Private Landowner Guidelines (Costa 1992) showed that habitat met most of the parameters in those guidelines prior to the hurricane. After all hurricane-induced mortality, clusters remained active despite available forage well below the 3000 ft2 of total basal area in large pines recommended in the guidelines. In fact, two clusters were produced by budding from clusters with less than the recommended potential forage. Survival of adequate longleaf pine for new cavities appeared to be the most important factor in recovery. South. J. Appl. For. 26(4):197–206.

Keywords: Endangered species; environmental management; forage; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; longleaf pine; natural resource management; natural resources; nesting; private landowner

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: Department of Forest Resources, Clemson University, Clemson, SC, 29634,

Publication date: November 1, 2002

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Southern Journal of Applied Forestry covers an area from Virginia and Kentucky south to as far west as Oklahoma and east Texas.
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