transferred to Texas A&M University. There they will be studied to determine methods
of artificial propagation. Thanks to people interested in the preservation of
threatened wildlife, The Attwater Prairie Chicken appears to have a new lease on life.
But help is still needed. The Spring 1968 News Letter of Texas Wildlife mentions
the following: "Funding of this land purchase is more than 80$ complete. This means
that the contributions from private sources, over the last three years, have almost
assured financial success. However, "almost" is not quite good enough." Your cheek
to Texas Wildlife, earmarked "Prairie Chicken Project" will aid in making this a total
success. Address of Texas Wildlife: 316 Perry-Brooks Building, Austin, Texas 78701.
AUSTIN—The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has taken the first steps to protect the
vanishing Red-cockaded Woodpeeker and add it to the rare and endangered species list,
according to Robert G. Mauermann, deputy director of the Department.
The list Is compiled by the Committee on Rare and Endangered Wildlife Species, Bureau
of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife of the U. S. Department of the Interior. The list
contains approximately 100 speoies of rare and endangered birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians considered by the Committee to be so few in numbers as to be in
danger of extinction.
The plight of the small woodpecker was brought to light recently by long-time Department Wildlife Biologist Dan Lay, stationed in Nacogdoches. Lay, who has been studying
the Red-cockaded Woodpecker for approximately 20 years, said the species, once fairly
abundant in southern pine forests of the United States, is becoming rare and may be
doomed in East Texas because of its habitat requirements.
Of the several species of woodpecker in the State, only the red-cockaded requires a
living pine vigorous enough to produce gum freely but over 80 years of age and decadent
enough to have redheart disease, a fungus that softens and permeates the trees heart-
wood with small holes and damages the value of the wood. The disease eventually kills
The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is zebra-backed and has a black cap. The male's red
cockade is tiny, almost invisible. Similar species include the Red-bellied Woodpecker
which also has a zebra back but may be distinguished by a red cap.
The Red-cockaded Woodpecker is more likely to be confused with a Downy or Hairy
Woodpeeker but the white cheek patch is the distinguishing mark, according to Roger
Tory Peterson's "Field Guide to the Birds of Texas."
Lay, as well as ornithological publications, says the woodpecker unerringly seeks out
old pines with redheart to chip out nesting sites. Once a suitable cavity has been
excavated in the tree, the bird waits until sticky pine sap exudes from the wound and
surrounds the entrance, then builds its nest. Lay said the sap protects the birds
nesting site from other birds and predators. "How the bird unerringly finds a pine
tree with redheart is a mystery," Lay said. "Man first finds redheart when the tree
dies or is cut for the mill." The bird prefers trees in a park-like surrounding,
such as old stands of longleaf pine. Seldom will the birds inhabit trees in the
heavier darker areas of a pine forest. The inability to adapt to changing habitat
conditions has been listed as the underlying cause for the extinction of many species,
including the Dinosaur.
Lay said the type of trees required by the Red-cockaded Woodpecker are customarily cut
by landowners and sent to the mill because of the slow growth rate and because the
redheart disease will eventually kill the tree and make it useless as saw timber.
But the woodpecker's plight has not fallen on deaf ears. Meetings between Department
personnel and the U. S. Forest Service has secured a degree of protection for such
trees in four national forests in Texas consisting of 657,000 acres. John Courtenay
of Lufkin, Supervisor of the Texas National Forests, says saving such trees in the
national forests fits very well in the Service's program of wise multiple use of
forestlands and that this program has already been added to their operation manuals.
"It's a small thing to protect an inhabited tree or one that is desirable for the
endangered woodpecker," he said. "I've seen eight of the trees and four of the birds.
Courtenay says the service plans to locate and map inhabited trees as well as those
which would make suitable habitat and preserve them for future use of the woodpecker.
—From the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department NEWS LETTER dated 5-8-68.