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Georgia Wild E-Newsletter

Ft. Stewart woodpeckers

By Jim Ozier

During the afternoon of Feb. 11, several teams of biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Branch at Fort Stewart and from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources spread out into the pine woods of the Army base. The exercise had been planned for the previous week, but was postponed due to excessively cold weather. Now, Mother Nature seemed to have over-corrected and the warm temperatures brought out hordes of whining mosquitoes.

Equipped with long-handled nets and color band data, the biologists were trying to identify selected juvenile red-cockaded woodpeckers as they returned to their roost cavities, then capture up to three of these birds for translocation to Moody Forest Natural Area. The goal: Help save Moody Forest's population of the federally endangered birds from disappearing. The population there could not go much lower: It was down to a single male. Translocation of juvenile woodpeckers is a proven technique in helping small populations grow to more sustainable levels.

In reality, this effort was the culmination of many months of work at both sites. The habitat at Moody Forest is being restored primarily through the careful reintroduction of fire into the system. At Fort Stewart, extensive habitat management, banding and monitoring led to the availability of these young birds, even after the base had met its voluntary commitments for providing woodpeckers to several other recipient sites.

And thanks to the cooperation of DNR's partners at Fort Stewart, two females and one male woodpecker were captured and transported the 30 miles to Moody Forest, where they were released early the next morning into suitable habitat where the single bird resides. If all goes well, the birds will stay and help establish two nesting pairs.

The DNR is very grateful for the help of Fort Stewart personnel in completing this move, and for their many contributions to helping conserve Georgia's natural diversity. Fort Stewart natural resource managers have demonstrated that through careful management, the base can support a steadily growing woodpecker population to help with range-wide recovery, provide several juvenile woodpeckers for translocation to other sites each year to help those populations grow, and still excel in its primary mission of training soldiers.

Jim Ozier is a program manager with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division's Nongame Conservation Section.


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