Effects of Military Training Activity on Red-cockaded Woodpecker Demography and Behavior---AND---New Territory Formation in the Cooperatively Breeding Red-cockaded Woodpecker

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Virginia Tech

The red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) is a federally endangered species. As such, populations need to be increased in order to achieve recovery goals outlined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. My thesis is composed of two chapters that represent opposite sides of this issue. The first chapter investigates whether military training activity negatively affects red-cockaded woodpeckers. Military installations in the southeastern United States contain several of the largest remaining red-cockaded woodpecker populations. Six of the 15 installations harboring these birds are designated primary core populations; thus, population increases on these sites are critical to recovery of the species. However, restrictions on military training activity associated with red-cockaded woodpecker protection are a cause of concern on military installations that sometimes constrains management for population growth. Current restrictions are based on assumptions of potential impacts rather than scientific evidence, so we evaluated two different restriction regimes to test for training activity effects. The second chapter concerns how to induce populations to grow more rapidly through natural processes. As a cooperative breeder, red-cockaded woodpeckers preferentially compete for existing breeding positions and queue in the form of helping or floating to obtain a breeding vacancy, rather than create new territories. I used 20 years of demographic data collected as part of a long-term monitoring study of red-cockaded woodpeckers to investigate mechanisms that stimulate territory creation in this cooperatively breeding species.

pioneering, territory creation, human impacts, cooperative breeding, budding