Somewhere in W. Goodrich Jones State Forest lives a small cluster of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Picoides borealis. They are rather small, about 8 inches, with white bellies and black and white striped backs. Males have small red spots on each side of the head. They were given the name over 200 years ago when cockades or ribbons on a hat were in style.
Jones State Forest was established in 1924 and is managed by the Texas A&M Forest Service. Located in Montgomery County of FM1488 it is an urban forest of approximately 1,776 acres, with as main purpose, resource education.
It supports over 250 bird species of which several woodpeckers, but the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCW) is the only one that is a permanent resident in the forest. Other woodpeckers can be seen in urban areas with lots of trees and at bird feeders. The RCW is a cavity nester and needs at least 100-200 acres of an ecosystem of mature pine trees to make their nests. In 1970 it was placed on the endangered species list when it was threatened by extinction.
RCWs live in family groups or clans consisting of the male, female, and offspring from the previous year. They all share in the responsibilities of building nest cavities and feeding the young. These cavities are excavated in mature pine trees preferable long leaf pine trees but also loblolly and other southern pine trees. Excavating mature pine trees is hard work and takes a long time. They peck the bark around the hole to get the resin to flow which deters predators, especially snakes.
Their diet consists of insects and spiders, supplemented with berries. The female lays 2-4 eggs in a breeding season. However, from March 15 through July 15 the nesting areas are closed to the public to limit disturbance.
Watch this video to learn more about the Red-cockaded woodpecker.