There are only 13 pairs of these once-common woodpeckers left in the entire state.
Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 11:10 pm
By Rex Springston | Richmond Times-Dispatch
WAVERLY — Flopping around on a towel on the floor of a pine forest, a tiny chick represented hope — if hope can be blind, pink and naked.
This object of optimism, no more than a blob with a beak, was a baby red-cockaded woodpecker, one of the rarest and most peculiar birds in Virginia.
Using climbing gear and an aluminum ladder that he stacked in three 10-foot sections, biologist Bryan Watts had reached the chick’s nest hole in an old-growth pine and extracted the bird with a snarelike tool.
Another biologist, Mike Wilson, put a series of leg bands on the 7-day-old chick. The scientists band the woodpeckers to identify individual birds and learn more about their habits in an effort to build the Virginia population.
“Hope for the future, that’s what you’ve got there,” Watts said.
There are just 13 pairs of these once-common woodpeckers in Virginia, all here in a Sussex County preserve about 55 miles southeast of Richmond.
The work of Watts, Wilson and others is part of an effort to bring back not just a little bird most people will never see but also to restore its majestic wild home — open, parklike pine savannas that once defined Eastern coastal regions but that, like the bird, have been devastated by human actions.